Friday, May 22, 2015

Adding purple to a purple garden to make it more purple

Zombie Liz 2
Before the advent of modern chemistry, purple dye was scarce, and therefore expensive.  It was considered to be the color of royalty because only the royals could afford it.  Or so says Wiki.  The truth is that purple clothing makes most people look like one of the undead, but the Windsors (former surname Hauptberg-Sax-Konenbergfahrter) use it as camouflage because they actually are zombies.  Everyone knows this, but most are afraid to write about it in a blog.  Lucky for you I'm so darned brave.  

Could not visit Red Lobster until 1958.
In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, the dye used to make purple was extracted by pressing millions of otter penis bones between the weighted pages of obscene literature.  As a result, clothing made of this fabric tended to enlarge and stiffen when in the presence of fish - which, as any bishop of that time would be happy to tell you, could make things awkward.  Those ecclesiastical turmoils are now the subject of ribald tales and nothing more.

All very fascinating, as color history goes.  But I have a problem with the color purple.  The problem is specific to my garden.  As in, why is it the only color out there?  At the present moment the beds are a riot of lavender, magenta, puce (a combination of "puke" and "mucous"), violet, blackberry, and grape.  Nothing blooms now if it isn't a shade of purple.

Turkey seen out front.  
Let me backtrack a bit.  We never planted for color.  Our goal over the years has always been to have the most bee- and bird-friendly plants which are reasonably native (thankfully, everything is native somewhere), noninvasive (that ship sailed with the oregano and garlic chives) and, above all, not tasty to deer or other wildlife. That latter characteristic is essential, as we are awash in groundhogs, raccoons, the aforementioned deer, rabbits, chipmunks, and at least two kinds of squirrels.  We also are visited by the occasional fox and coyote, and a few weeks ago I saw a turkey.  I have never heard of a garden being raided a turkey, but the thing was massive and intimidating, and I'm sure it was up to no good.  

(When you choose certain characteristics in plants or animals, you necessarily leave others to chance.  Check the hardiness of the hybrid rose or the intelligence of a Pekingese dog to verify this.)  

So, without going all tree-huggy granola on you, dear reader, the truth is that we ended up with purple plants because nothing eats them.  And it works in
"What's all this purple stuff?"
that regard.  I've seen bunnies munching along the lawn who hop into our garden beds and find nothing edible.  They hop right through. Likewise, that Scourge of Dandelion Flowers known as the groundhog finds nothing worthwhile in our garden. In the fiercest winter (of which we just had one), deer eat everything, including fir branches and the razor-sharp leaves of the yucca plants - not planted by us! - that line the pond.  But they never enter

our completely unfenced garden.  

Which garden, as I write this, is a spectacular homage to the color purple.   

I attach photos of today's garden in the text and below, so you can see for yourself.  I wouldn't make this up.  

It's an intriguing fact that some of these plants began life as cultivars of an
A salvia
entirely different color.  They are contractually obligated to be the color on the plant label only in their first year.  In successive years they color themselves at will, which I've found means either a white or a purple flower.  Sometimes it's white one year, purple the next. Plants apparently have a limited imagination, although they are very playful when choosing where to grow next.  

Due to the voracious tendencies of some of our inhabitants, we've had to rely heavily on the onion family.  They smell bad to browsers, but butterflies and flying insects love their flowers.  We have many types of chives and alliums.  We also have several varieties of purple salvia, oregano and basil. The specialist hybrid irises we bought years ago in shades of pink, yellow and white are now all deep purple, and they seem much less constrained in that color, spreading themselves far and wide.  

Regular chives, not garlic.
A note on garlic chives:  They are as invasive as a Mongol horde on steroids, and they colonize both from their tubers and from seed.  In past years we've dug them up and planted them far and wide on the property. This year we gave up and we're now throwing them away.  I hate to discard a living thing, but these little dudes will not quit.  Even though they have lovely white flowers (a small blessing), they WILL take over.   If you decide to plant a garlic chive, do yourself a favor and put it in a pot. It will hate the pot, but you will save yourself all kinds of grief.  

So we have plants in all colors of purple: lilac (actual lilacs and the color in other plants), periwinkle, mauve, plum, amethyst, heliotrope (just the color, we're too far north for this), orchid and amaranthine. The garden is green stalks and purple flowers, as far as the eye can see.  This iris at right has a lovely yellow stripe, but I'm pretty sure next year it will be solid purple.  That's what plants do in our garden.

And I don't do myself any favors.  I decided to break with tradition this year and get some of the ultra-
Wave petunia plotting
world domination
hybrid Wave Petunias, which I understand spread like 
like crazy (but since they're annuals, who cares?) and which are probably produced in the worst GMO cloning facilities in an extraterrestrial space station orbiting some iron meteor near Jupiter where no one even dreams about minimum wage.  Or by Monsanto, same difference.  And, knowing what I know about my own garden, what color did I pick?  Purple.  Not just one but two shades.  Maybe it's the color I really want.

Maybe I'm royalty?

Wave petunia in Toxic Neon Purple, a color
never found in nature.  We'll be watching
it closely.  
A spiky type of salvia which I do not remember buying.  

This year I had the bright idea to plant over a hundred yellowy orange marigolds as an antidote to the purple.  Unfortunately I've now realized that the purple and yellow-orange are nearly opposite each other on the color wheel, which means they'll make each other more vivid.  When the marigolds take off it's going to be glaring out there.  

For now, I believe I'll work on accepting the color purple.  I really should, because it's all I see when I look out the window.