Tuesday, 31 July 2012

What Colour is Alma?

When I was first planning my magenta border, I knew that I would have to have some asters to finish off the season. There are a lot of good ones out there, and one in particular, aster novae-angliae 'Andenken an Alma Pötschke' sounded great. Both Sarah Raven and Christopher Lloyd described it as 'magenta'. Nobody else did, but then people tend to shy off that particular word. Everyone agreed it was a great plant.

Aster 'Andenken an Alma Potschke'
Picture by Joan Hall, Creative Commons

Fall rolled round, and the asters began to flower. Alma flowered, and she looked fine. Magenta, however, she was not. At the time I found it mildly disturbing, because I couldn't think how to describe the colour it actually was. All I knew was that it looked wrong. 

Later, I would read Allan Lacy, who described it as "vivid, saturated cerise". Which, once I figured out what cerise was, seemed pretty accurate. Alma has a a very intense colour. Sequim Rare Plants, however, get the prize: they called it "vivid watermelon pink".

You can see why it had to go. It's not actually a salmon-pink, whatever the RHS says, but it looked like it surrounded by purples and pinks and magentas. It looked strange. It's such a contradictory colour that Graham Stuart Thomas described it as "cerise-scarlet", two colours which straddle the blue - orange divide in the red zone.

It's funny how even now that vivid colours have come back in, I had a hard time finding out which flowers were actually magenta-coloured. I find it ironic that I should be complaining about a plant being labeled as magenta. But if you're not colour-theming your garden, I can recommend Alma: it has great flowers, it's got striking colour, and it keeps its leaves, unlike a lot of asters. But it's not magenta.

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