In the Garden:
Coastal and Tropical South
May, 2012
Regional Report

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Gorgeous Epi hybrid aka orchid cactus aka Disocactus has piggy, carnation, bubble gum, and hot pink all in one bloom.

Thinking Pink

They say that it is a sign of personal growth to continue to learn, even to change one's mind occasionally in light of new experiences. If that is the case, I am clearly called to higher education on the subject of my least favorite color, pink.

Avoiding Monochrome
I remember many a pink dress from childhood, and I did not like any of them, despite my grandmother's beautiful tailoring. The color always seemed so wimpy unless it was garish, like the famous hard to swallow but stomach settling pink glop. My opinion did not change when I grew up. I gardened in every color but pink and assured others that they could live without it, too, until a few years ago.

No one was ever more affected by antique roses and the endless shades of pink encompassed in these friendly shrubs than I was. Still, I have photographed many lovely rose gardens that were as monochrome pink as the girls' dresses in my kindergarten class and worked hard to avoid that in my collection. Sheer affection for the roses led me to embrace their pinks and to seek out other rose colors and soon to incorporate pink into all parts of the garden. The result is, to me, a more balanced and colorful view when pink plays its part.

Using Pink for Good
Because pink is said to calm and also to inspire action, it seems to me a resolute color. Pink has staying power, lingering in view almost as long as white when dusk falls and holding its hue in full sun, too. It works in the simplest of garden designs and brings certain sophistication with it.

Pink cools a hot sunny bed when combined with yellow and red. For example, a planting of golden bells and candelabra tree needs the bold contrast of red salvia in front or Abyssinian banana to the rear, but together the strong colors can almost cancel each other out visually. Add pink zinnias and cleome to compliment the bright hues and you will immediately create a more pleasing scene. In the same way, pink petunias can stand out from the crowd to lighten the looks of a bed dominated by purple clock vine and orange lion's ears. I have learned that pink goes with everything in the garden, but I still very rarely wear the color.

Pink Hues to Know
Within the pink color family there are several important shades that have particular impacts in the garden. They are enshrined in crayons with descriptive names like shocking, carnation, and piggy pink, three iconic garden shades. Piggy pink might also be called pale pink or baby pink, a light shade seen in Caldwell pink, Sweetheart, and many other roses. I repeat it in the garden with dahlias, lilies, flowering magnolia, and Pink Perfection camellia. Piggy pink conveys a pleasant mood, soothes and cools, does not dominate, and is never aggressive in a group. Carnation pink creates a stronger tone, the color of some carnations and pinks (dianthus), and I think of it as plucky, self-assured but not smug. You can have carnation pink in Aloha and Natchitoches noisette roses, selected gerber daisies and the famous silver vase bromeliad.

Shocking pink came into favor when a noted designer used it to shake up the world of pastel pink before WW II. It is the color of newer shrub roses like Fuchsia Meidilland, named for the darker shade of its aging flowers, and Miami Pink bougainvillea. Shocking pink is a party color, an uplifting and optimistic focal point shade that calls attention to itself and the plants around it.

There are, of course, many shades in between these hallmark colors, and one bears mentioning. Somewhere between carnation and shocking pink is lighthearted bubble gum, the shade I associate with the stalwart Peggy Martin rose. The famous story told here previously of this rose blooming through Hurricane Katrina and its bountiful blooms in my garden give me even more reasons to warm up to pink.


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