Purple, Please

DSC_0008The first color I want to feast my eyes on when spring comes is purple.  It could not be any further from the light, medium and dark drab I have been looking at for months. Purple flowers have a luminosity and depth that no purple paint could come close to-just try to paint a room crocus purple.  Watercolor pigments, thoroughly suspended in water, and applied transparently over a white sheet of paper, come close to luminous.  The gold yellow of these stamens are by direct contrast sure to attract pollinators as much as they attract me. But no one does luminous better than nature.  dsc010101Though these lavender species crocus planted in a flat do not bloom for long,  I pay my money, and go home happy. Sometimes I do the right thing, and plant tufts of them out in the garden.  They rebound from the forcing amazingly well, and will take hold in the garden.  The hyacinths are another story-these fabulous fakes fool the eye even up close.  I have seen people touch them, to check if they are real.  I think the fabric is dyed such that the color pools dark to light on each floret.  The individual florets are thin enough to permit light to pass through-a more than decent try for luminosity.  

spring 05 (7)It is an unusual client who will commit to a purple door. I find this refreshing.  The front door looks like a package ready to be opened, does it not?  The grape hyacinths-who would not have them-all the species and every available hybrids-if they could?   

July2 011Laurentia is blue purple. Commonly known as heliotrope blue, the color startles me.  In the smallest dose, it reads loud and clear. A small stand of this is as striking as an entire field of sunflowers, as it is so unexpected.  An unexpected landscape element-what is yours?    

July25 011Verbena bonariensis is one of my favorite flowers. Endowed with all the airy grace of a meadow perennial, it is an annual in my zone. Drought tolerant, sturdily tall, a prolific seeder whose seedlings are easy to weed out-who could ask for more from a plant?  These floating dots of red/lavender/purple are beautiful with just about every other color on the planet; this makes them friendly to just about any scheme you have in mind.

DSC03672Integrifolia dyed purple is a rich royal purple.  Placed in front of a pale greenish yellow wall, this complimentary color makes the purple glow.  Though no light penetrates these leaves, pairing colors opposing each other on the color wheel is a reasonable approximation of luminosity.   

DSC_0014Pansy purple-everyone knows what that color is.  I find it all the more precious as I have it in the spring and early summer-no other time. I call this alyssum the Easter mix-the mix of lavender and purple brings back memories of Easter Sunday hats.  Those hats I only saw at Easter-never any other time of year.  I am sure I had more than one Sunday dress in some variation of that purple. 

boxes 0305 (5)I call this a presentation boxes-don’t ask me what that means, exactly. Draw your own conclusions.  This box I made from synthetic moss mats, lime green reindeer moss, natural reed, a particularly fine specimen of poppy pod-and purple fake fur. Purple and lime green-an inspired color combination.   

BirmPots (41)Purple can be moody, and fugue like.  What I call Moses in the Cradle-this dark purple tradescantia, I plant liberally.  It tolerates cold, heat, shade, sun and neglect.  A new variety I tried this year has a white and cerise variegation; such a fancy outfit must be why it does not grow vigorously.  But the ordinary Moses will make a stunning bouquet for you.  Persian Shield is a moody mix of blue green and red violet in this more sunny location.    

Designing landscapes is not a career for me-it is a life.  Planting containers allows me to address lots of design issues I face designing landscapes, in a small space, for a short time. Color is a design element as important as any other.  My containers are a momentary laboratory. I am able to experiment with color, mass, texture, pattern, value, rhythm, proportion, scale in a small space-all of what I see in these container plantings, I bring to work with me every day. When I go to design a landscape, everything I have learned from these container plantings comes with me.


  1. Stunning post, I’m amazed by the containers and the purple door is so intruiguing. There’s nothing like seeing purple crocus after a long winter, I can hardly wait. 🙂 Rebecca

  2. I agree with Rebecca- I adore the containers next to the purple door. The moss on top is perfectly restrained. Any advice for getting moss to grow? I’m trying grow it between my patio blocks with limited success. PS- I’ve never before been inspired to comment on a blog!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Ashley, I so like hearing from people who read, thanks! The moss is the picture is dried mood moss-no growing involved. I spray it with moss dye occasionally to keep it really green. For between patio blocks, try herniaria, or rupture wort if it is sunny enough, and if it is hardy for you. Or you can just water your blocks regularly-sooner or later you will get moss, if there is shade. Deborah

  3. I love your blog and work- I read it daily. I stumbled upon it weeks ago after googling “dwarf alberta spruce topiary.” I’m somewhat new to gardening and have found much inspiration from your pictures. Last year we tackled our yard, I’m anxiously hoping all my new trees and shrubs lived through the winter! Only spring will tell.

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