Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Is Our Sense of Color Fickle?



Such a bravado show of color stirs up memories and emotions. So do the many tints and shades in a garden, but unlike a museum exhibit, gardens aren’t static. Gardeners are always messing about with color, creating and rearranging combinations of leaf and flower. But this color play is nothing compared to nature’s contribution to the garden scene. Plants morph in color, texture, shape and size through the seasons. Then there’s fog, rain, sun, mist, frost, dawn light and moonlight, all of which change how we perceive color by the minute, hour and day, as well as the time of year.



So how, with all this flux and possibility, do gardeners develop such inexplicable yet stubborn color prejudices? Years ago, it seemed that everyone scorned orange. Then hot colors replaced pastels in our affections. Remember when the pairing of dusty pink with silver foliage was cool? After seeing so many gardens seared by the dramatic combo of black and chartreuse, the pairing of pink chrysanthemums with dusty miller seems pallid and kind of quaint. Gardeners tell me they adore violet, anything violet, but would never let a white flower in their garden. Go figure.  


Flowers and foliage in new colors are introduced every year, and our tastes change. Who would have thought that ebony flowers, the darker the better, would be so prized? Right now, varying shades of green on green look fresh. It’s all about color, or lack of color, or the color on the underside of the leaves, or … well, you get the idea.



Strolling through lots of public and private gardens, looking closely, noting combinations of flowers and foliage that appeal to you, is a good way to get shaken out of color complacency. 

So is flower arranging.

 It’s so much easier to play around with color in the vase than in the ground: no transplanting involved. Varying textures and shapes allow for unexpected harmonies. You learn that glossy, deep-green leaves of camellia or magnolia help referee the most vivid colors. Grow foliage in every shade from plum to silver, and you’ll be able to mellow out any combination of flowers.

A passionate comment by glass artist Ginny Ruffner was most influential in broadening my sense of color. Years ago, I was interviewing the Ballard resident about her stunning garden. I made the mistake of asking her favorite color, and she nearly exploded in defense of every shade and tone. Ruffner said she loved them all and could no more choose between one color and another than she could choose between her own fingers. How freeing. After all, we have a virtually unlimited color palette, plus every shade of green, to work with. 

All you need do is follow your eye, your memories and your heart as you play with color. You might as well have fun with it, because it takes only a hungry deer (WE HAVE MANY NIBBLERS IN OUR NEIGHBORHOOD-BBL)  or a big windstorm (WE DON'T HAVE TOO MANY OF THOSE-BBL) to change the most carefully orchestrated color scheme. And then you get to start over.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Many Faces of Green


The Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz movie sports a green face. Green often connotes the idea that people sick with envy could turn green. That old wicked witch was certainly jealous of Dorothy’s ruby slippers, and the whole plot of the story hinges on her attempt to snag the shoes.
Centuries earlier, Shakespeare’s Iago tells Othello to “beware the green-eyed monster” of jealousy. But, Iago became the cunning cat who toyed with Othello to feed his illusion that his faithful wife Desdemona is deceiving him. Shakespeare picked the color which, at his time, had the negative connotations of natures that are suspicious, bitter, unmindful, greedy, bland, undependable and deceitful, all characteristics of Iago.
Despite some negativity associated with green, it has many positive qualities in many cultures. Spring season and the positive symbolism of jade associated with longevity and rebirth are two desirable attributes to the Chinese. In Celtic mythology it was the color of Tir na n’Og, Isle of the Blessed. Other positive connotations associate green with being discreet, sensible, fruitful, benevolent, tolerant and talented. Green symbolizes harmony on the color scale; it is midway between red and purple. It is the bridge or gateway in the spectrum. Green connotes prosperity, especially in business. And, it is nature’s favorite color. It soothes most people. Because it is easy on the eyes, it has long been a popular color in the work place. Green is versatile and it can be used effectively indoors or out for home decor. It has connections to feelings of peace, ecology, renewal, self-control, security, flexibility, and harmony.
International interior designer Maria Killiam says: “Grass green is the most restful color. Green symbolizes self-respect and well being. Green is the color of balance. It also means learning, growth and harmony.”
 Holly is one of the evergreens used in ancient festivals as an emblem of hope amid the darkness of midwinter. The symbolism was given a powerful new charge by Christian analogies between its thorns and red berries and the Passion of Christ. Hence its central place in Christmas decorations. Other evergreens are used to suggest immortality. And, who can forget the gorgeous lyrics penned by Barbra Streisand for Evergreen, a lover’s fantasy which helped her win her first Oscar for the best song.  

Emeralds are often associated with fertility, growth, and spring germination because of its hue. It acquired folk symbolism as a lucky stone of conception and childbirth and was believed to shorten labor. The emerald is the stone of the Pope because of its connection with both faith and hope. In the Christian liturgical calendar, green is the color associated with Kingdom Tide’s season, the period following Epiphany which extends to Easter. Ministers wear green stoles during this period of time. 

Our language uses green references for expressing both positive and negative traits identified with this versatile color:
Good green
  • Green light - go, permission to proceed with a task
  • The green room - in theater or television it is the room where performers and guests go to relax
  • Green thumb – a person good with plants
  • Greenback - US dollar bill, money
  • Greener pastures - something newer or better (or perceived to be better), such as a new job
  • Greens – healthy vegetables
Bad green

Seattle’s Central Library painted its bathrooms an unpleasant shade of green in 2004 to discourage long-term use by the homeless. The library advocated for the city to build a downtown day shelter and hygiene center to better serve those in need. 
  • Green-eyed monster - jealousy
  • Green with envy - jealous or envious
  • Green - inexperienced, untested, untrained
  • Greenhorn - novice, trainee, beginner
  • Green around the gills - pale, sickly
The Emerald City epitomized the place where all the short-comings of the Scarecrow, Tin Man and the cowardly Lion were erased. The green aura shining ahead of the quartet of seekers on the Yellow Brick Road draws them forward like a beacon promising fulfillment of their wishes and dreams. Each received what was desired. The Emerald City seems like heaven until one awakens from a detailed dream and home becomes better than one first realizes. Green was definitely the go-to color for Oz’s happy citizens.


HAPPY ST. PATRICK'S DAY-BBL

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Green's Properties

Green’s Properties
From Nori and Sandra Pope's book's photos

            “Green is the color of primeval wealth---sappy green fields, the green of a woodland glen---everyone can revel in it. It is this thin layer of green plant cells that keeps us breathing, keeps us fed, keeps us alive. No wonder we adore it and long for it when without it. The changing seasons add the melody to the green of a planting. Spring shoots are often tinged with chartreuse, turn blue-green in their fullness, and fade to biscuit yellow in the autumn before they fall. The eye translates the fresh green of spring to excitement, change and newness.
            Surely green is the color of Pan, god of life. Kirlian photography, which makes the invisible emanation of the psyche visible, concurs: green is the lush, sympathetic color.

George Harrison's Living in the Material World album cover

            Colors are rarely seen in isolation, so it is important to be aware of the optical effect adjacent colors have on each other. Both Goethe in his theories of color harmony and Chevreul in his 700 page monograph of 1839 about the Gobelins dyers pointed out the phenomenon of successive contrast, the way in which the eye, staring first at a color and then at a piece of white paper, will see on the paper an afterimage in a complementary or opposite color. If the eye is fixed on green, the successive contrast will be red; if fixed on yellow, violet; if fixed on blue, orange and so forth. Each shadow is in perfect contrast, and Seurat and Monet made use of this effect in creating the color depths of their canvases. It results in a dazzling shimmer between pure red flowers and green leaves.



(An excerpt from Nori and Sandra Pope’s gorgeous book Color in the Garden)



Wednesday, March 1, 2017

A Happy Pantone Color for 2017





This year’s choice is Greenery, officially known as PANTONE 15-0343, and it’s described as a fresh and zesty yellow-green shade that evokes the first days of spring. I call it spring leaf green! Think of it as St. Patrick's Day green with a bit of yellow (a happy color) added to it.
“The tangy yellow-green speaks to our desire to express, explore, experiment and reinvent, imparting a sense of buoyancy,” said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute in a statement.
This chartreuse-like shade is said to encourage people to take a deep breath and reinvigorate.

The Pantone Color Institute in Carlstadt, N.J. is a division of X-Rite Inc., which is headquartered in the Grand Rapids suburb of Kentwood.
Pantone is considered a global authority on color and provider of professional color standards for the design industries.
One of the perks of being the Color of the Year is that the shade will show up in everything from fashion, home products and more.

Superb Canadian interior designer Maria Killiam declares: "The color for 2017 is kelly green (hooray, I've been waiting for this green for a long time) and the look is refined and generally warming up. 
Green reigns supreme in 2017 as the most versatile colour with broad appeal. 
Greens are getting both richer and warmer, moving away from the beachy, minty hues towards more grounded shades of yellow green spring shoots and deep leafy greens. (In other words, I think Pantone nailed it with Greenery this year). 
Move over cool industrial edginess and laid back rustic everything, 2017 is the year we return to warm, cozy and luxurious layering!"