Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Gardeners' Holy Grail is blue. I know this. I know this because I read gardening catalogues, gardening blogs, gardening books, gardening memoirs. I know this too because deep blue in my garden steals my breath.

What is it about deep blue? Why do we garden folk trek far to find a clear, hearty blue for our beds? Why did the Himalayan blue poppy stir so much excitement? There are so very many colors to choose from! Why blue? What's wrong with red or pink or apricot or yellow? Why blue?

Something magic going on with hearty blues. Years ago I used to paint reproductions of medieval illuminations, recreating tiny scenarios of m' lady and her knight, fantastic creatures, and stylized flowers, all in a delightful palate of toasty reds, greens and browns. Then I'd crown these little pieces with gold leaf and intense royal blue! What a show! I'd carry them proudly to my mentor, a PhD smitten with courtly love and, maybe, me, and offer them up. "Here, here is my offering: some royal blue. For you."

Something about blue. When my late husband and I were looking for engagement rings (I said No to a diamond), he yelled across the gem store, holding the perfect stone: "Hey, Lowman, how about a chunk of mountain sky?" How about a chunk of mountain sky, indeed. It was perfect! A cornflower sapphire from Sri Lanka. Ideal! We designed the wedding band to fit around the engagement ring and I cherished it for the 18 years of our marriage. And somehow he'd find delicious blue-stoned rings to give me as Christmas gifts.

Betty Davis wore a stunning sapphire ring in the movie "Dark Victory." Diagnosed with a terminal disease, her character jumped into the remaining time. I have a reproduction of Davis' ring: three bands of emerald cut stones, diamonds and dark sapphires, a dark victory indeed. Wearing the ring makes me cherish each breath.

Strong blues just strike deep chords. Don't know why. I don't wear a lot of blues, don't have blue furniture, have never chosen a blue car. But deep blue in the garden: now that's another story. A berm dedicated to my late aunt is jammed with blue Japanese iris; they'll be popping out soon, hundreds of them, dancing around with the strongly pink (no candy-ass pastels here) tulips that are strutting today. I've encouraged the rowdy centaurea montana (mountain bluet, a cornflower...like a big bachelor button, but all dressed in the same intense dark blue) to take over wherever it can. Enabling its spread, I give starts to friends and neighbors. "Here, here is my offering. Some royal blue. For you."

This week I found indigo in the gorgeous garden my sister and her husband have painted in the bay area. My goodness: a bench, inviting one to sit, think, meditate, breath, view, smell...a bench of royal blue. What a treasure! A chance to tap into the magic of this rich hue, the resonant tone that is blue.


  1. Ah, that blue is perfect! Like you I love blue in the garden. Baby boy blue is probably my least favorite color of all time, but give me a deep royal blue or a warm indigo or even a mysterious deep night sky blue. Beautiful.

  2. This is so vibrant. I love it.