I’m a stickler about color. Few things drives me crazier than reading a plant name that is not truly indicative of its color. I don’t object to the actual colors of these plants but when names and photos indicate that the color is other than reality, it makes designing with them more difficult. Every color has undertones and when they are not taken into consideration, the resulting combinations can make you wince.
You want examples? They are legion. Take Helenium ‘Ruby Tuesday’ for instance. I dearly wish that the color were ruby red but it isn’t. Helenium flowers are either yellow, orange, or scarlet.
I never cease to be amazed at the catalog photos of Asclepias ‘Hello Yellow’. They lead one to believe that this Butterfly Weed is clear yellow. The reality is a golden yellow.
There aren’t many perennials with green flowers but there are two Echinacea on the market that belie this phenomenon. ‘Green Jewel’ blooms green and stays green but ‘Green Envy’ quickly turns to pink, so quickly that the word green should be removed from its name.
Helleborus ‘Blue Lady’ in one of my shady beds
Penstemon mexicali ‘Red Rocks’
Origanum laevigatum ‘Rotkugel’ is a cousin of ‘Herrenhausen’. I planted it based on its name which translates as ‘Redball’. How misleading! The tight buds have merely the slightest tinge of red while the flowers are purple. Another perennial that misleads us is Penstemon mexicali ‘Red Rocks’. The flowers are charming but they’re not even close to red; they’re rose pink.
Hosta ‘Orange Marmalade’ is a charming name. I love orange marmalade on my English muffins and as a glaze on chicken or duck, but not until midsummer is there any hint of orange on this hosta. The leaves are cream with a wide green edge and some of the cream closest to the margin eventually becomes a very pale apricot but orange marmalade is a much stronger color. Am I caviling?
I know that naming plants has become a marketing ploy but why, oh why, can’t they bear some resemblance to reality?