In praise of…purple

If you had asked me, when I was a child, what my favourite colour was, I would have had a very definite answer: purple.

Not just any purple, either; I particularly liked the pastel shade of purple Smarties, and claimed they were my ‘favourite’ Smarties. (How stupid was I? Everyone knows the orange ones are the best).

Smarties

Smarties

(Yes, I did buy Smarties just for the purposes of illustrating this blog, and no, I’m not ashamed…)

These days, I can take or leave purple Smarties, but I do have a lasting fondness for that pale shade of purple, especially when I come across it in the garden.

The classic purple spring blossom, for me, has always been lilac – so classic, in fact, that it gave its very name to that delicate, lovely pale shade of purple.

Besides my early interest in Smarties, I can remember that I loved the Lilac variety of the Flower Fairies – indeed, the Flower Fairies can be found at the root of many of my most-loved flowers from childhood – and of course the Lilac Fairy of the Sleeping Beauty is the stuff of many a ballet-mad girl’s daydreams, so there are clearly all sorts of reasons why I’m predisposed to like lilac.

However, as I’ve discovered, not all lilacs are lilac!

Classic pale purple lilac

Classic pale purple lilac

This gorgeous specimen above is on an otherwise rather shabby street corner near me, and as far as I’m concerned is a proper shade of lilac. When I came across it, I had to stop and take a picture straight away, regardless of the fact that the house behind was shrouded in scaffolding and it was otherwise not a great photo opportunity – the lilac simply demanded to be photographed.

Then, I discovered to my delight that we had a lilac in our garden. As it prepared to bloom, I noticed the buds were much darker, closer to the brash, showy colour of buddleia, and was a bit disappointed it wasn’t my favourite pale shade.

Our lilac, a deeper shade of purple

Our lilac, a deeper shade of purple against a perfect blue sky

Looking at it in full bloom, though, I would be seriously churlish not to admire such a magnificent tree – and close up, the smell is wonderful. I’ve noticed, too, that the blossoms seem to get paler as they mature, so I have been able to enjoy a whole range of lilac shades in the last few weeks.

White lilac, raindrop

White lilac, raindrop

Suddenly I began to see lilacs everywhere – even a white variety, above, and one that was so pale it was almost pink.

Another recent purple favourite is wisteria – not a plant I’ve ever appreciated very much before, but I’ve come across it in a couple of local places recently and been blown away by how beautiful it was – and again, the scent is also gorgeous.

It’s one of those plants which impresses with its scale, whether it’s covering the front of a house or along the length of a garden wall. It would never work on our 1930s house, which is far too boxy and lumpish, but on the more elegant proportions of this Georgian style house it looks just right.

Wisteria on a Georgian house

Wisteria on a Georgian house, in late afternoon sun

What with the lilac, and pansies, and sweet peas (hopefully, eventually) and irises, and violets, and lavender, my garden certainly isn’t short on purple, but from my front garden snooping there is one thing I REALLY want…

Purple columbine

Purple columbine

I love columbines in all sizes, shapes and colours anyway, but isn’t this dark purple shade just heavenly? Photographed in a rain shower with raindrops still on it, which somehow made it even better.

Finally, something bizarrely NOT purple, also seen in a local garden: a white lavender.

White lavender

White lavender

I’ve heard of white heather, sure, but white lavender, never. Didn’t get close enough to find out if it smelt properly lavendery, but it certainly looked rather classy (although I will admit to picking a bit of goose-grass out of the middle of the bush to make a better picture. Yes, I’m now actually weeding my neighbours’ gardens for the sake of this blog. Don’t thank me, folks, it’s all part of the garden snooping service…)

Advertisements

Return to the Rookery

Our Junior Miss celebrated her first birthday recently, and I have been remembering the walk we did last year, when she was only a few weeks old, around the Rookery on Streatham Common – which ended up being the subject of one of my early blogs.

At the time, that walk was a novelty, partly as I was spending so much time in a fug of tiredness, holed up at home with a newborn, and partly because it was such a cold, wet spring. Going outside, full stop, seemed like a medal-worthy achievement at that point.

Now, things feel very different. Junior Miss and I are regularly to be found traipsing round our local parks, and days when we don’t leave the house at all are rare indeed.

I can look back on those early days with a mixture of nostalgia of all those precious newborn baby snuggles – the bits when I wasn’t standing outside Tesco crying or sitting in cafes watching the rain pour down – and relief that we have come so far.

Unbelievably, and wonderfully, I now have an actual human child to share my favourite places with, and I can begin to watch her growing enjoyment of plants, gardens and the great outdoors (though her experience of communing with nature seems mainly confined to pulling the heads off flowers and trying to eat mud, so far).

So, recently, we went back to the Rookery and I was delighted to see it in even better bloom than last year – looking fresh and invigorated despite the unpromising spring we’ve had. NB: It’s actually the centenary of the Rookery this year, with lots of celebratory events going on, so that probably explains why it’s looking so spruce.

Cherry blossom petals

Cherry blossom petals

Cherry blossoms had drifted along the edges of the path – not perhaps on the scale of Japan or Washington DC, but very romantic-looking.

Pink forget-me-nots and tulips

Pink forget-me-nots and tulips

The pink forget-me-nots I admired so much last year were back – but now with added contrast of tall tulips dotted through the masses of pink. I’d never dare to try and put hot orange with pink, but doesn’t it look great here?

I’m also not usually a fan of the dark purple tulips – they always seem a bit try-hard trendy gardener to me, (and they seem to be everywhere this year, so purple tulip must be very on-trend in 2013, hem hem), but I quite liked them here, against the pink.

Apple blossom

Apple blossom

Lovely apple blossom – I love the bright pink of the buds before they open, in comparison to the pale blush shades of the blossoms, and the glorious fresh green of the leaves.

View across The Rookery

View across The Rookery

View back towards the forget-me-not bed, through a pergola.

White Garden

White Garden

The Rookery even has a White Garden of its own, just like the more famous one at Sissinghurst…but I’ve now discovered that the Rookery’s is apparently older than Sissinghurst’s!

Yellow Tulips and Forget-Me-Nots

Yellow Tulips and Forget-Me-Nots

Finally, on the way home, I found another bed of tulips and forget-me-nots, in a nearby front garden. Isn’t the combination of blue forget-me-nots with yellow tulips just fabulous?

It’s a similar, but more sophisticated version of the dandelion-and-forget-me-not mash-up I was admiring recently, and it reminded me that my own, rather haphazard front garden is somewhat lacking on the forget-me-not front.

The delicate blue haze makes such a pleasing backdrop for more dramatic plants, I must try to shoe-horn some in somewhere – or even better, wait for it to drift over from a neighbouring garden, in true lazy gardener style.