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.

Helenium 'Ruby Tuesday'  in client's garden

Helenium ‘Ruby Tuesday’ in client’s garden

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.


Asclepias tuberosa 'Hello Yellow' with Larkspur in my garden

Asclepias tuberosa ‘Hello Yellow’ with Larkspur in my garden

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.


Echinacea 'Green Envy'

Echinacea ‘Green Envy’ (Photo credit: gulleygreenhouse.blogspot.com)


Echinacea 'Green Envy' shortly after bloom in my garden

Echinacea ‘Green Envy’ shortly after bloom in my garden


Echinacea 'Green Envy' massed in the east bed

Echinacea ‘Green Envy’ massed in the east bed


Echinacea 'Green Jewel'

Echinacea ‘Green Jewel’

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 bedsNeither are there many perennials with true blue flowers. Most are shades of purple. I love Helleborus ‘Blue Lady’ but isn’t blue; it’s beautiful shades of lavender.

Helleborus ‘Blue Lady’ in one of my shady beds

Origanum 'Rotkugel' behind Galtonia in late July a few years ago

Origanum ‘Rotkugel’ behind Galtonia in late July a few years ago


Penstemon mexicali 'Red Rocks'

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' five days ago

Hosta ‘Orange Marmalade’ five days ago

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?