“We’re in curious territory here. In the garden, brown usually (but not always) means senescence or death;when it appears in a healthy, robust flower, it can cause a mild case of cognitive dissonance in the observer.”
The above observation is from one of my favorite new books, The Gardener’s Color Palette, Paint Your Garden With 100 Extraordinary Flower Choices, by Tom Fischer. Beautifully photographed by Clive Nichols this poetic homage celebrates and explores that most obvious and evocative element of every garden.
Everyone’s already worn out the “box of chocolates” metaphor – but really, this book is just that. My darling daughter, when faced with a toothsome display of delicious morsels, takes a discreet bite out of every candy in the box – on the backside of course. Why limit herself to just one when they’re all so good?!? That’s sort of how I treat this book, only without the resulting unsavory, sticky and disappointing mess for the next person sampling.
A color will catch my eye…whether in my messy office, at the Sunday farmer’s market, or yes – even the garden, and I’ll dig into The Gardener’s Color Palette to get Fischer’s take on it. Just like a good bittersweet chocolate – his words are deep, luscious and fruity yet don’t make your teeth hurt with cloying sweetness.
Here’s Fischer’s take on Orange:
“It brings tropical warmth and brilliance into temperate gardens, and begs to be combined with other sharp colors: magenta, bright yellow, electric blue. Orange goes with margaritas and music that has a really good beat. As it modulates toward peach and melon, it becomes another creature entirely, losing none of its glow but acquiring more social graces, like a practiced hostess at a large party: ‘Miss Peach, allow me to introduce you to Mr. Brown and Miss Lilac. May I pour you some tea?'”
Some people can’t stand orange flowers; I just ignore them – the people, not the flowers…I adore orange flowers! But some magenta flowers really do make my teeth hurt. Lord knows, fortunes have been spent in pursuit of a true blue blossom, and let’s not overlook that haute horticultural fashion – black. I’ve certainly been known to plunk down some coin for a good goth garden effect, despite the (obvious) fact that black flowers are virtually invisible in the garden.
True confessions… Tom is editor-in-chief at Timber Press – the publisher for my next book. I don’t want to be seen as “brown nosing” here. But, really? The best part of this book is how he doesn’t leave out the quirky, uncomfortable, or less-well-accepted colors. Anthony Bourdain would call these colors the “nasty bits”.
But BROWN…brown is my favorite. I love brown in the garden. Foliage, flowers, ripe pods and seed heads, bark, rusty metal, wet dirt, aged manure (especially if someone else is spreading it!). Tom didn’t leave out brown. I find that delicious. Brown isn’t just for autumn any more. Here’s a little pictorial essay of some of my favorite garden browns at their peak right now:
Don’t let my chocolate fantasies put you off this delectable book which has a treat for even the most dyed-in-pastel-wool color traditionalists.
“It’s not all cotton candy and strawberry ice cream. Although pink can seem too sugary in certain settings (and has perhaps not been aided by its link with Mary Kay Cosmetics and the movie Legally Blonde), when used intelligently it’s capable of both great delicacy and great strength. Pale pink inevitably carries associations of youth, freshness, joy , and spring. As it deepens, however, it sheds the chaste veils of innocence for the low-cut, slinky evening gown of experience. Hot pink and magenta don’t take sass from anyone, and they’re ready to show you a good time.”
Hmmmmm – maybe it’s time I take another look at “sassy” magenta.