What is your favorite color? Ninety percent of people say either red or blue, with a few greens sprinkled in with pinks and orange. Of course, green is the predominant color in the landscape about eight months of the year. My favorite color(s) change from time to time with whatever is the predominant color in our ornamental plantings and surroundings.
For instance, what in the world do we say about January? Well, it would have to be white, technically a non-color, with the days the ground is covered with snow, less frequently here than in the north.
Personally, the snows I like are the light, wet ones that stick only to trees and the grass and don’t last long. The icy and heavier ones can cause a heap of trouble to a lot of people when they hang on and on, wreaking wrecks and other havoc. Snow can, however, temporarily turn even a junky homestead into one as beautiful as those tended well.
Then there is hated February. Sometimes the month is relatively kind but more often she is nasty and is just an extension of January. Some years, however, February brings a few balmy days, with a south wind, that precludes spring. Saint Valentine’s Day is the big commercial attraction in February, so let us name red as our favorite color then.
March is harder to pin down, what with yellow daffodils springing up in every nook and cranny of the landscape at the same time the wild spring phloxes bring out their mauve coloration, along with wild Jacob’s ladder and a bunch of other things. We will save mauve for April, because yellow is such an overpowering color against the sere March woodland and fields.
So, then, let us look at mauve in April. Why mauve, and not blue? Simply because what most people see as blue at this time of year is really mauve. A pretty word for a pretty color, somewhere between pink and blue or purple. Some also would call it pale purple but mauve is really the word, what with the spring phloxes and Jacob’s ladder. The color is soft, as befits April, generally a soft month, but capable of short reverberations of winter. Just look at this year, for instance.
The merry month of May. It was my mother’s favorite month. “Such a pretty month,” she often said. I agree, though some years there is a little lull in flower color. What there is, however, is most often a real blue, with a few plants, and purple with others. Read our state flower, flag irises, with true blue ones but more purples. May is also the month that numerous perennials are bursting through into the sunlight. Hostas are never prettier than when they jump freshly out, and many are blue.
June is so colorful that it is hard to pin down a single favorite color. Let us say green, no wait, chartreuse. The greening of the woodland occurs mostly in May, and you almost can’t stop grass from growing. It will mow you to death. New leaves everywhere are, at least temporarily, chartreuse, a pale yellow-green that is eye catching any time but more prominent in June.
By July, that vivid green begins to morph into a more leaden tone as tree leaves mature, but there are a few Japanese maples that carry on the chartreuse color they are born with in May. But we will have to go with green in July, if only to admit it is surely the predominant color.
August. Ugh. What can you say? What a terrible heritage was left by August Caesar, with stinking heat and humidity smothering everything, at least in our part of the world. But for annuals, there is little color in most beds and borders. And there are so many colors in annuals, we are no better off trying to pick. So let us take pink, whether you call ageratum pink or not, there are still dianthuses that really are pink, and a few others.
September, at least the last part of it, ushers in autumn. With harvested corn and soybeans, there is so much brown in the landscape, we are duty bound to put that color in September, and save the real explosion until …
October, the “golden month” of the outdoors. Unless you are housebound, October is the best month of the whole year to simply drive over the back roads of our pleasant county and observe the gold and orange explosion on the trees, as well as those same colors reflected at ground level, with the most gallant show of wildflowers of the whole year.
Ditto November, but with more subdued colors adding to the stage, with russets, tans, and maroon sticking their heads into the equation.
So, let us give November the honors with orange being the main filler. Actually, in our climate zone, the full blast of autumn color often doesn’t arrive until the first week of November.
We’re almost back to where we started. We’ve just got to repeat red for December, what with Santa Claus, red ribbons, Christmas tree lights and red berries on everything outdoors from sumac to hollies, both deciduous and evergreen, and poinsettias, Christmas cacti, and red apples in fruit baskets.
Well, there is black, technically a conglomeration of all colors, and one which is sometimes encountered in gardens, mostly in small doses. We must include it here, because it is the favorite color of the Paris Pessimist Club members, who see nothing but black on the horizon.
Color makes our gardens and the borrowed landscape, too.
Right at optimum fall bulb planting time, along comes the annual bulb sale to benefit the Rhea Public Library. The sale will be Oct. 19-24 at the library on West Washington Street. A number of varieties of the toughest bulbs of the narcissus clan, including daffodil, buttercups and jonquils will be offered at good prices. Many of those kinds offered are not found in retail outlets.
JIMMY WILLIAMS is the garden writer for The Post-Intelligencer, where he can be contacted on Monday mornings at 642-1162.