Colour in My Garden by Louise Beebe Wilder is an illustrated garden book from the early 1900’s
‘MAGENTA THE MALIGNED … I am very fond of this colour as worn by flowers and have taken some trouble to bring it into harmony with its surroundings.’ (Page 223)
Louise Beebe Wilder, Colour in My Garden, Doubleday, Page & Company, 1918. Illustrated in Colour by Anna Winegar
Color in the Garden is a Personal Affair
The subject of color/colour in the garden has always fascinated me. My whole family cares about color. Each member has a favorite. You can tell who owns which toothbrush due to the personal colors. I call it the toothbrush test. Those who care about color choose their toothbrushes by color, those who don’t couldn’t care less what color it is. The garden is no less important when it comes time for color choices.
Personal color choices are important in life so carry them through to your garden. Here is the RHS Colour Chart Fan #2- Red-purple group on top of some pages of Louise Beebe Wilder’s Colour in My Garden book, 1918
Viva Magenta – The Pantone Color of the Year 2023
One color that I like to watch for garden trends is the Pantone Color of the Year. The 2023 color is called Viva Magenta. You would think that it would be a perfect Jenny Rose Color – but no! The color as they describe it is not my favorite. To me, the color resembles red with a touch of orange rather than the bright red-purple that I think of as magenta. I am happy to work with magenta in the garden but the flowers shown below might be less like the Pantone color and more like the Jenny Rose version of magenta.
Viva Magenta – Pantone’s Color of the Year 2023 – seems to be nice and bright in the image above, but the color swatch is rather on the orange side of red rather than the red-purple that magenta is usually described as.
Viva Magenta color swatch – not really magenta?
The ability to see color varies from person to person and descriptions of specific colors are notoriously hard to pinpoint. The subject of magenta and its use in gardening has been an issue for many years. There were garden writers who despised it and those who loved it.
My new book: The Ultimate Flower Gardener’s Guide has lots more information about the use of color in your flower garden. Magenta is on page 54
The Garden Color Expert – Gertrude Jekyll
The garden influencer who set the stage for the arguments about magenta was the English garden writer, Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932). She was one of the first modern garden designers to consider color in the garden with her best-selling book, Colour in the Flower Garden. This first came out in 1908 and set the stage for undoing decades of garishly colored Victorian carpet bedding.
The Pansy Garden at Munstead Wood, Surrey painted by Thomas Hann
Gertrude Jekyll was a trained artist and she described ways of using plants in a painterly manner. She gardened at a garden called Munstead Wood in Surrey, England. I was lucky enough to visit it many years ago. Gertrude thought carefully about which colors would look good together and refuted the accepted notion that the best way to plant flowers was with bright primary-colored flowers that were planted in solid blocks of one flower per block. She used some of the old flowers in her garden designs, but she paired them with others that gave a subtle, coordinated look.
An example of how the Victorians loved to assemble their flower gardens. The style was called carpet bedding. Gertrude Jekyll paved the way to change the style of gardening to have an artistic use of color in the garden
Our way of gardening today owes much to Gertrude and her thoughtful color compositions. However, I do not agree with her assessment of magenta-colored flowers as ‘malignant’ in color (as quoted in her book, Wood and Garden). This is her often-quoted take on magenta that persisted and continues to be promoted in some gardening circles. The irony is that Gertrude’s books are illustrated with Gertrude’s own photos in black and white. You have to use your imagination to ‘see’ the colors just as we did when we were young.
Black and white photographs taken by Gertrude Jekyll are used to illustrate her books. Throughout she expresses her opinions about the use of color. Quote; ‘There are among Geraniums some of a raw magenta-pink that I regret to see in many gardens and that will certainly never be admitted into mine.’
Gertrude Jekyll’s September Garden at Munstead Wood that may have contained the ‘terrible magenta’ that spoilt the colour-scheme in her Aster Garden. Quote: ‘If I want a strong, rich violet purple, I must beware of asking for purple, for I shall get a terrible magenta such as one year spoilt the whole colour-scheme of my Aster Garden.’
Jenny Rose loves Magenta in the Garden!
I love magenta in the garden. Here I am at The recent Philadelphia Flower Show last month enjoying the flowers, lights, and music. If you have not visited a flower show recently think about putting one on your list for next year.
Whether you like the Viva Magenta Pantone Color of the Year for 2023 or what I would call real magenta be aware that like all color choices – opinions differ. We know that this is true in the garden with one person loving a color and another not wanting it at all. As quoted at the top of the blog – Louise Beebe Wilder, an American garden writer was ‘very fond’ of Magenta. I follow Louise rather than Gertrude on this matter of personal color choices for my garden.
Here are a few photos of plants that you can grow in your garden this year to be on trend.
Some ‘Magenta’ Flowers to Try in Your Garden
Achillea, yarrow has some new cultivars that are magenta
The feathery type of Celosia is easy to grow from seed and is a wonderful color in arrangements
Cosmos flowers come in white, orange, yellow, and a variety of pinks and magenta colors – they are easy to grow from seed
Look for dahlias in magenta. They are grown from tubers that are planted after the soil has warmed up
Dianthus are often flower bright magenta
Look at the magenta bee guides in the interior of this Digitalis – foxglove
Gladiolus byzantinus is a fabulous magenta-colored addition to your garden
Lychnis coronaria, Rose Campion
Lychnis coronaria, Rose Campion adds a bright splash of magenta to the garden that is cooled slightly by felty silver leaves and stems
Petunias are a great way to add some bright magenta to your summer pots and containers
Stay on trend with some fabulous magenta zinnias that you grow from seed this year in your garden. Sow them directly in the garden once the soil has warmed up
I hope that you have enjoyed these thoughts about the use of magenta-colored flowers in gardens. If you liked this blog please subscribe and tell your gardening friends about it.
Next month I will be sharing some images of the Chelsea Flower Show in London – from visits in previous years. Follow me on Instagram @jennyrosecarey to see real-time images of this year’s show. Have a great gardening month. Bye for now.
Cheers from your gardening friend in Pennsylvania
Jenny Rose Carey