On the surface it may seem like the “color committee” has thrown me a bit of a curve ball this month. After all, what does the color purple have to do with the month of April? Perhaps a little more than you think. For example, did you know that dating back to ancient times the color purple was a symbol of royalty and nobility? The gospel narratives in the bible make reference to the purple robe that was placed on Jesus’s shoulders during the crucifixion and as a result, at Easter, which often is celebrated in April, it is commonplace to see the color purple draped on wooden crosses. Lighter shades of purple are thought by many to represent romance and mystery and in the garden it can be both a dramatic as well as complimentary color.
At the beginning of spring it doesn’t take long for purple to make its presence felt. Years ago I remember making a sales call and couldn’t help but notice a beautiful purple flower cascading over the edge of a brick wall. I quickly researched the plant and found out it was a ground cover known as periwinkle. The pretty purple flowers on this plant were a welcome sight after a long winter and I was so taken with it I had to get it for my own yard.
Early in the spring the redbud tree, the state tree of Virginia, has purple flowers along its branches which seem to emerge almost overnight in the forests along the highways and byways and you can’t help but notice the purple flowers of lilacs at this time of year as well. As spring progresses other vivid purple flowers can be discovered including bearded iris and the fruits of your fall labors come to fruition with all the tulips, allium, grape hyacinth and crocus blooms that you will get during this time of year.
As spring gives way to summer the power of purple continues to be demonstrated in its versatility. It still can be the center of attention as well as a contrasting color with other plant partners. A walkway lined with lavender in full bloom is as dramatic a display as you will ever find and it is easy to pick out the purple lobelia that is found in many flowering containers. If you want to try growing a vine that is a real show stealer try a hyacinth bean vine that has purple stems, purple flowers and pretty purple seed pods as well.
While there is no doubt that purple can steal the show in the summer it also plays an important supporting role as well. Purple can be combined with yellow, orange and white flowers as well as silver and grey foliage found in plants such as Lamb’s Ears and Dusty Miller. Try growing purple salvia with orange profusion zinnias or yellow marigolds. The purple seems to soften these colors while also helping to bring them to your attention. The same effect can be replicated in containers as well. Purple, yellow and orange Calibrachoa in a hanging basket are stunning and while flowers in containers are beautiful don’t forget that foliage plants like fountain grass and sweet potato vine can also make great container plants too.
Perhaps fall is the time of year that we most associate with the color purple. Chrysanthemums, Asters and Pansies are plants with purple flowers that most of us are probably familiar with but Lantana, Cosmos, Dahlias and Zinnias continue to provide us with purple flowers if we planted them earlier in the season. Morning glories will keep going strong until the first frost and the purple wave petunias in your containers will give you one final performance if you trim them back and fertilize them one last time. Finally, this is also the time of year to plant your spring-flowering bulbs and there are plenty of purple colored options to choose from if you have the time and the room to plant them.
Lastly, purple is still with us even during the winter months. Ornamental Kale will continue to share the beauty of its purple foliage during this time of year and orchids and cyclamen are great choices to brighten up your kitchen or living room. You can also force hyacinths into bloom that will provide a beautiful fragrance in addition to a stunning flower and if all of this doesn’t convince you of the power of purple than just look to the sky. Some of the most beautiful sunsets have a purple element to them at this time of year and if that doesn’t demonstrate power I’m not sure what does.