Cultivated: Green grows the garden

Christin Geall is an avid Oak Bay gardener and creative non-fiction writing instructor at UVic

What is a sympathetic colour?

In theory we all know what that adjective means, but it’s tricky to articulate such meaning beyond the human. A sympathetic person is one who listens before responding, a kind person we might think—someone who is there for us, supporting us as we struggle to grow into ourselves.

The same can be said of a green in a garden or floral arrangement. It acts as the supporter, the backdrop, and often as a tonic too – green is the colour of life-giving chlorophyll, fresh shoots and growth. To borrow from the great book The Secret Lives of Colour by Kassia St Clair: “In Latin the word for green is viridian, which is related to a large group of words that suggest growth and even life itself: vivere, to be green or vigorous; vis, strength…”.

Green supports other colours, but it’s also beautiful in its own right. As a secondary colour there’s a tremendous range of hues between the two primaries of yellow and blue. Consider these variations: chartreuse, pea, verdigris, emerald, avocado, olive, celadon, apple, absinthe, forest, mint, jade, kelly, sage…

I’m not a foliage gardener, so let’s start with where I’m most familiar—the green flowers, those inflorescences that add life to any border or arrangement. Here are some green favourites:

Hellebores, including the foetidus and viridis groups.

Spurges, including Euphorbia polychroma and Euphorbia charachias. While the latter is almost a weed in my garden, I bow down before its chartreuse blooms in spring. Acidic, electric, this colour can’t help but jump start any palette in the garden or the vase. (To use Euphorbias as a cut flower, just let their milky sap run out in a few changes of water. Some people are allergic to the sap, so wear gloves when handling cut ends).

In the same fresh lime colour range as the Euphorbia is a summer annual cut flower, Zinnia ‘Envy’. Easy to grow in sun, this flower charms with its sheer obnoxiousness, but it’s tremendously useful for standing up to jewel tones like rich rubies and deep purples.

Other annuals include the green Nicotianas (N. alata group and N. langdorfii). Both have spires of green trumpet-shaped flowers that perk up dark palettes.

The carrot family offers the Queen Anne’s Lace cousin Ammi majus, with perfect little nests of clear Irish (aka Kelly) green. Speaking of Ireland, another summer wonder is the annual flower Molucella aka Bells of Ireland, which is easily grown from seed and bends and swerves to a height of almost 4 ft in a season. Amaranth, grown as a food crop, has long draping flowers of pale green, grows like a weed in warm weather, and is spectacular spilling out of a vase.

Demure and enchanting, the perennial fringe cup Tellima grandiflora works well in shade gardens. As does Lady’s Mantle, Alchmellia mollis, a perennial with glaucous felted leaves and singing yellow-green blooms. Alchemilla is a filler of the first degree and tough as can be. If you clip it back after flowering, you will get a second flush of blossoms in midsummer.

The Geulder Rose, Viburnum opulus, has pale green lacecap-like flowers that blend well into any situation. Another green-flowering shrub is the uncommon Itea ilicifolia, which has elegant pendulous inflorescences in early spring; we need to see more of this plant.

If you’re one those people who like Albert Einstein believe ‘everything in life is vibration’, you’ll be pleased to know that the colour green is psychologically associated with harmony, safety and fertility. Those sound like the attributes of a fine garden to me.

Christin Geall is an avid Oak Bay gardener and creative non-fiction writing instructor at the University of Victoria.


Just Posted

28 years later: Dunahee disappearance remains largest investigation in Victoria police history

The four-year old Victoria boy went missing without a trace on March 24, 1991

Victoria Fire Department advises cigarette safety after two fires started in one week

Two separate fires caused by cigarette butts were avoidable

Saanich could become the new home of the world’s largest gnome

Galey Farms could find out Tuesday whether it will host the eight-metre-tall structure

Update: BC Transit driver taken to hospital with serious injuries after assault

Driver attempted to stop an altercation between two people on the bus

Protective human chain forms around Victoria mosque for Friday prayer

Islanders stand arm-in-arm to show support in aftermath of New Zealand shootings

‘Families torn apart:’ Truck driver in fatal Broncos crash gets 8-year sentence

Judge Inez Cardinal told court in Melfort, Sask., that Sidhu’s remorse and guilty plea were mitigating factors

Vancouver Island motorists attempted CPR on victim in fatal Highway 4 crash

Collision took place west of Whiskey Creek; man in his 70s died

POLL: When do you think the next major earthquake will hit Vancouver Island?

According to seismologists, Vancouver Island is overdue for a magnitude 7 earthquake.… Continue reading

WestJet sticking with Boeing 737 Max once planes certified to fly

WestJet had expected to add two more of the planes this year to increase its fleet to 13

B.C. driver caught going 207 km/h on motorcycle along Okanagan Highway

A motorcyclist was caught by Kelowna RCMP going 207 km/h on Highway 97C

Motorcyclist dies after three-vehicle crash on old Island Highway

Accident happened at 12:15 p.m. Friday near Country Club Centre in Nanaimo

B.C. fire department offers tips to keep your home safe during wildfire season

With wildfire season getting closer, the Penticton Fire Dept. offer tips to keep your home safe

Fierce house cat spotted as ‘aggressor’ in face off with coyote in B.C. backyard

North Vancouver resident Norm Lee captures orange cat versus coyote in backyard showdown

Most Read