Roses Are Red, Violets Are…

By Amy Grant | March 4, 2023
Image by Vasyl Rohan
by Amy Grant
March 4, 2023

Some plants bear the name of a color… or is it vice versa? It’s a bit like what came first, the chicken or the egg. At any rate, many plants share the same name as a color.

Flower Colors

There are lots of examples, of which fuchsia is one. When the word “fuchsia” is said, who doesn’t conjure up an image of the hot pink hue? Speaking of pink, pink is also a word for both a color and a plant. Pink was first used as a color name in the late 17th century. The pale red color got its name from a flower of the same name. One might be tickled pink to see a pink pink.

We’re all familiar with blue jeans. When Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss began marketing the work pant, they chose to dye the fabric blue, indigo blue. Indigo is a color derived from several plants in the genus Indigofera, members of the pea family. Indigo is not only the name of a plant, but also one of the seven colors of the rainbow blending in between blue and violet, yet another color that is a plant.

Of course there’s also the rose, so named for its rosy hue. And then we have the color blind Sir Edmund Spence and later Gammer Gurton who oh so poetically (and incorrectly in my opinion) wrote “The rose is red, the violet’s blue, the honey’s sweet, and so are you”. Violets are well, violet to my eye. Definitely not blue.

Really the list could go on and on regarding colors names that are also the names of plants, but my favorite holds a special place in my heart: lilac. I was born and raised in what has become known as the Lilac City.

The Lilac City

The historical background on how my Spokane, Washington became known as Lilac City is a bit fuzzy. Lilacs are not native to the area so someone brought them here, but who and when is in dispute. Regardless, by 1938 there were sufficient shrubs with accompanying lilac blooms to promote a Lilac Festival complete with parade. Of course, again it depends on who you talk to; the official Lilac Festival folks say the first festival was held as early as 1896…

Today the Lilac Festival is in its 76th year (or is it?) and probably a good two out of three homes have a lilac somewhere in the landscape; except mine.

Despite a sentimental attachment to the name I actually abhor lilacs except when they are in bloom. They are a rather large, rangy shrub with multiple trunks that tend to be rather unattractive except from May to June when they are in bloom.

Despite my distaste for the shrub, it is still a spectacular experience to go visit the Lilac Garden in Manito Park during the peak of bloom when over 100 named lilac cultivars from 23 species vie for your attention.

And, there might just be a lilac that I might consider adding to my garden. More compact than other lilac cultivars, the Bloomerang has something else… it blooms twice a year! Two blooms of fragrant flowers might, just might, be enough to entice me to join the lilac craze in my hometown.

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