Saturday, 29 September 2012

Epacris and male colour vision

Don’t you find the pink flowers of native heath (Epacris impressa), whether bright or soft, simply joyous in winter? As they continue to bloom into spring they are doubly impressive, but I’m told that the specific epithet is due to the indentations that you can see near the base of the bells (perhaps where some birds pierce the bell for nectar), not due to the flashiness of the flowers. On the left is a new variety to me: E. impressa `Bega Form’ states the label at Melbourne’s incomparable Kuranga Native Nursery…and the flowers are red. Bright scarlet red, vermillion red, almost blood…red.
Scoffing for years at what seemed to me as men’s poor colour sense, which was even reported seriously, recently, as fact (half the number of brain cells dedicated to this purpose, compared to women; but can I find the relevant 2012 article in The Age: no - apologies), I’d disbelieved – for 20 years - the descriptions of Epacris blooms as white and pink to red. I had to see the scarlet bells for myself, and have to say that I was wrong in this instance.
As a garden designer, one of my first clients wanted to have an `orange’ wall in his courtyard and after a gulp, I took him literally…later I realized that he meant terracotta (a very different beast) – and I learnt a valuable lesson.
I’m afraid that I’ll remain skeptical of many descriptions; colour is one of the most vital component in the garden (after actual living status of plants) for me (before texture, anyhow) and it’s frustrating when (male) writers confess to their colourist shortcoming without consulting a (relative) expert. How often is a violet or bluish-mauve described as blue? (Jacaranda, Campanula, Algerian Iris anyone?) Books, catalogues, magazines…without (accurate) photos of every plant, the writers need to look hard and think harder.

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