Pops and Neutrals

I will start with a confession.  No one needs to know about this but you and me.

I bought myself a Christmas present from Stevie.  ‘The Secret Lives of Colour’ by Kassia St Clair.

It combines two of my favourite things: words and colours.  Words for colours.  Colours for words.  Stories about colours, using lots of words.  It is a beautiful thing.

And of course I handed it over to Stevie for wrapping up and opening on Christmas Day with a gasp of surprise!

When he wasn’t looking, I dug it out of the wardrobe again.  It is with me now.  Ssshhh.

I wanted to just dip in to it to get my creative juices flowing before I started taking photos.

It’s a frosty morning.  A light frost.  Rather than there being a total white-out, the colours are just muted a little. 

Take these hazel catkins (are they early?  They seem early.  I think they will just sit tight, wriggling a bit to keep warm, until spring).

I’m not generally a ‘neutrals’ kind of person.  I know neutrals are tasteful, but I do love my pops of colour.  And blocks of colour.  And swirls and twirls and whirligigs of colour. 

But on a day like this, I can appreciate the neutrals.

Hazel Catkins

Now, thanks to my (ssshhhh) book, I have some lovely words to describe these colours.  The honeycomb is blonde with just the merest hint of chartreuse near the blush-rose stem.

But I don’t want to languish with the neutrals for too long.  Time for a colour pop.  

(Oh!  My cup runneth overRaspberry with a background of stormcloud and ube!)

Rosa ‘L.D. Braithwaite’

I planted a row of Rosa ‘L.D. Braithwaite’ along our front fence two years ago.  The soil was terrible: rubbly stuff, with great hunks of chalk and flint.  It is also dry as a bone.  Poor old ‘L.D. Braithwaite’ has been toughing it out.  

L.D.’s growth has been so spindly and his flowering so sparse that I was thinking of uprooting him and replacing him with a bit of Lavender. But this week, L.D. has been given a reprieve. Ziggy, our half-dog half-kangaroo, has worked out that he can jump our fence. As L.D. grows, I am hoping that his thorny fortifications will prove a disincentive for Ziggy to leap.

Now let’s toddle off around to the Rose Garden.  Here is another David Austin rose, ‘England’s Rose’.  I’m going to say she is somewhere between fuchsia and shocking pink.  Not neglecting the smudges of taupe, and umber, and slate grey in the background.  And just the merest hint of Mountbatten pink.  

Rosa ‘England’s Rose’

Ah!  Tyrian purple throats on spent Penstemons.  And the green?  Avocado!  For the background, it’s wavering between between khaki and cadet.

Penstemon ‘Raven’ spent flower stalk

Also wavering is this stem of Rosa ‘Roald Dahl’.  The buds have a smudge of crimson-pink, but open peachy pale.  The stem floats on a sea of pea-green and silver mist.

Rosa ‘Roald Dahl’

This is going to test me.  A stem of industrial iron with nubs of russet and fawn.  It reminds me of a young deer antler.

Cherry twig with new buds

Rosa ‘Lady of Megginch’ has been dipped in icing sugar.  Frost always clings to the outer edges of petals and leaves. 

Rosa ‘Lady of Megginch’

The Gallica Rose ‘Sissinghurst Castle’ has beautiful autumn foliage.  There are nut and spice tones, enlivened with pistachio and citrus peel.  The combination of colours reminds me of artisan nougat at a Christmas market.

Gallica Rose ‘Sissinghurst Castle’ autumn foliage

Here is an amethyst crystal.   

Agastache 'Blue Boa'
Agastache ‘Blue Boa’

I love the silver grey of Salvia x jamensis ‘Nachtvlinder’These are the tones of a dressing room in a stately home: lavender, sage, just a sniff of arsenic.

In contrast to the cool greys of Salvia, here are some warm earth tones: dark chocolate, coffee, caramel, hazelnut, cinnamon spice.  All my favourite December indulgences.

Rosa ‘Boscobel’: winter buds

You can depend upon Penstemon ‘Raven’ for a late pop of colour. 

Penstemon ‘Raven’

I love the contrast between the fuchsia pink stems and the pistachio leaves.  Rosa ‘Lady Emma Hamilton’ is providing a backdrop of ruby and plum.

Penstemon ‘Raven’

Lady Em is in rude health.

Rosa ‘Lady Emma Hamilton’ in December

She is only wearing a powder-puff negligee.  She believes that the cold is good for her constitution.

Rosa ‘Lady Emma Hamilton’, frosted.

The normally magenta Geranium ‘Anne Thomson’ has darkened to heliotrope.  She looks perished with cold.

Geranium ‘Anne Thomson’

I do rather like the murky alien green and outer space blur in the background here…

Geranium ‘Anne Thomson’

The leaves are embossed with frost.

Geranium ‘Anne Thomson’ autumn foliage

Erodium manescavii flowers on…

Erodium manescavii

On to the Bright Border, which is doing its best.  Here is Rosa ‘Summer Song’, looking a little wan.

Rosa ‘Summer Song’, frosted.

And the last few blooms of Persicaria ‘Blackfield’, looking Christmassy with a background of lavender-grey and chestnut and mole.

Persicaria ‘Blackfield’

My Perennial Wallflower, Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’ has been flowering since March.  This plant is nearly three years’ old and, I suspect, is not long for this world.  Such endless flowering comes at a cost: live fast, die young.

Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’ in December.

I will leave you with some puckered rosehips.  I feel we need a colour pop to end on.  But there are lovely charcoal and burnt umber stems, and there’s a blurry background of taupe and fawn too.

Rosa rugosa hips in December

The colour is leaching from the garden.  I will have to embrace these neutrals for the next couple of months.  With the occasional sparkle of frost and bright blue sky, I think I can keep bringing you pops of colour.   I might learn some new words for white.

Now I’ll just sneak this book back into the wardrobe.  Stevie will never know…

Are you a colour pop or a neutrals sort of person?  Do you like spice tones or earth tones, or jewels and gemstones?  Does it vary with the seasons?

The Mindful Gardener invites you to indulge your senses in a feast of colour, and texture and form and scent.

If you would like to feast too, then click on the ‘Follow’ button at the bottom of this page.  You will receive an email notification each time a new post is published.

25 Comments Add yours

  1. Emma Cownie says:

    I love all the words for colours (you sound like my big box of messy oil colours) but “cadet”? I had to think about that.

    1. Yes, it intrigued me too, then I thought it was the exact colour of the uniforms of RAF trainee officers I lived with for a while!

  2. Beautiful photos Ali! I envy all your color. We have nothing but neutrals here and it is so wonderful to see some pretty color looking like they’ve been dipped in sugar.

    1. The frosting is lovely, isn’t it?

  3. Heyjude says:

    I love your colour words and I love all the colour still in your garden looking so pretty with the frost rimed edges. The roses just seem to go on and on and on! I lost my Perennial Wallflower this year, but it was a few years old and a cutting from the original so I can’t complain. I think I took another cutting but that seems to have disappeared so I might need a new on next year. As for what kind of colour person I am I usually wear denim jeans with coloured tees. Paler and brighter in spring/summer and spicy/neutral in winter. Cinnamon, khaki green, grey and black are my favourites though I have a brighter dull yellow scarf with floral pattern of pink and purple. Sounds horrible but it is actually very nice!
    (and the book sounds great – though I have sworn not to buy any more books!!!)

    1. Those colours sound lovely. My uniform outside of work is jeans and a tee shirt or in the summer cutoff jeans and a tee shirt. The most practical gardenwear there is!

  4. bcparkison says:

    You do make us look at our garden through new eyes.thanks for the entertainment of color.

    1. Thank you for being an appreciative audience!

  5. How interesting. My garden word guru has a word guru! To answer your question, I am partial to cheerful pops of color. It’s the reason we painted our house this summer from beige with chocolate trim to brookview green with snowflake trim. I’m sure our neighbors — all with subdued desert tones — think we’re nutty. We don’t care. Our pastel house makes me smile every time we drive up. 🙂

    1. Ooh, that sounds lovely. Paint colours are another treat!

  6. Will the roses and other flowers survive the frost?

    1. They get through a few frosts, then they seem to shut down mid- to late-December.

  7. Oh, you naughty girl! I won’t tell. Maybe I should come take a peek or two in your new book once it’s “officially” yours. My description for your frosted flowers would be sifted powdered sugar, frozen in place. Just magical they are! Just right for a winter ballet scene. Harp music, please.

    1. Perfect. Your description is delicious.

  8. Louise Bono says:

    Your blog comes and goes. I miss your regular visits. Please put me back on your follow list. Just love your photos and poetry

    1. Hi Louise, I think at some point you may have opted not to receive emails any more (perhaps by accident?). If you click on the big ‘Follow’ button at the bottom of my site, and re-enter your email address you will get the emails again. Unfortunately I can’t re-add you because you have to give your consent. Welcome back though and I really appreciate your support. X

  9. The foliage on your roses is gorgeous! Silly me, I used to only pay attention to the flowers before…

    1. The gallica roses seem to have especially lovely autumn/winter foliage, Tatiana.

      1. Now that you mention it, Ali, I’ve noticed the autumn/winter leaf coloring on my gallicas, too.

      2. I love Gallica leaves. They are a lovely colour and texture through the year, and so healthy.

  10. Cathy says:

    Being a colour person myself that book sounds just up my street, Ali, so I am off to investigate it now…hmm, have I treated myself to anything lately? (hmm, just the odd rose or two)

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