I love the 1985 movie The Color Purple starring Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey. One of my numerous favorite scenes is the reunion of Celie and Nettie at the end where they run through the field of flowers to greet each other. Ignore the fact that cosmos is native to Mexico, not Georgia, and that the flowers are more lilac than purple. They still provide a wonderful setting (amidst a color I love) and one easily created for a movie set.

When I was a child and asked my favorite color, the answer was always the same. “Purple.” I have no clue what the psychology behind choosing favorite colors is or whether they change or stay the same over a lifetime, but I certainly know the evolution of mine.

Purple Kin

As a youngster pondering a career as a horticulturist, chef, or artist, I had ample opportunities to view color. But putting names on them most likely began with my first box of Crayola Crayons. The eight choices limited my creativity to red, yellow, blue, green, orange, brown, violet, and black. Clearly, violet (purple) was for me. Next came the jumbo box of Crayons which expanded my palette to a number of purple’s cousins including blue violet, magenta, maroon, mulberry, plum, red violet, violet, violet blue, and violet red. Clearly, I liked anything that had purple in it. Heck, I think I liked purple’s cousins even better!

Next came Peggy Chevalier’s art class at Judson Junior High in Longview, Texas. She was a wonderful art teacher, and supplying only the primary colors of red, blue, and yellow tempera pigments, had us hand paint expanded color wheels showing not only all the secondary and tertiary colors but also had us create a wide range of shades and tints using black and white. It opened my eyes to the whole world of color and how each is related. It also showed me that even though I very much like all the pastel tints of the purple clan, I am most drawn to the saturated hues. But as a gardener, I know that without the lighter colors, the darker ones would not stand out so well and that I cannot live without any of them.

Byzantine glads and Aggie poppies

Then there were my school color experiences at Texas A&M University with all the variations of maroon I ran across in College Station including those on the red side and those on the blue side. This came in handy when collaborating with my mentor Dr. Jerry Parsons developing the Aggie Bluebonnet since technically every seedling “maroon” bluebonnet is genetically different providing an infinite range of color variations. I still remember explaining to him that we could actually develop a maroon bluebonnet by “mixing” equal parts blue and red to get purple and then adding more red to get maroon. Thank you, Miss Peggy.

And finally, there was my fascination with “the much-maligned magenta” which many garden writers have disparaged throughout the last century or two as a horrid color that would not go with anything. Think Byzantine gladiolus and garden phlox. Even my other mentor, Dr. William C. Welch” called their color “gaudy pink.” Of course, I dearly love it because it is hot pink with a shot of purple! Plus, where I come from “gaudy” is a compliment.

Texas Bluebonnets

Ironically, royal purple has generally evoked feelings of mystery, sophistication, and elegance, casting a spell of enchantment wherever it appeared. Whether found in the delicate petals of a flower or the deep hues of a sunset, purple never fails to captivate the imagination and stir the soul.

The spectrum of purple is as diverse as it is enchanting, encompassing a wide range of hues that span from the deepest burgundy to the softest mauve. Each hue carries its own unique character and charm, from the screaming intensity of maligned magenta to the subdued elegance of lavender. Whether vibrant and dynamic or subtle and understated, purple has a variation to suit every mood and occasion, especially all of mine.

Although true purples tend to recede in the garden, I do love incorporating them every chance I get. Some of my favorites I have used in the past are cultivars of aster, butterfly bush, bachelor’s button, clematis, crapemyrtle, duranta, heliotrope, hyacinth bean, iris, lantana, larkspur, Mexican petunia, pansies, passion vine, petunia, princess flower, purple heart, salvia, Texas mountain laurel, wisteria, verbena, viola, and vitex.

Throughout history, purple has been associated with royalty, spirituality, and creativity, symbolizing power, nobility, and luxury. In art, literature, and mythology, purple has played a prominent role, representing themes of magic, mystery, and transformation. Its deep and evocative presence invites contemplation and introspection, inviting us to explore the depths of our imagination and embrace the wonders of the world around us. But then again, every color does that for me.

Persian Shield

Beyond the garden, purple continues to inspire and delight, infusing our lives with its enchanting presence. Whether adorning our homes with plush velvet furnishings, indulging in a glass of wine, or enjoying the vibrant hues of a sunrise or sunset, purple surrounds us with its warmth and beauty, reminding us to embrace the joys of life and savor the moments of wonder and enlightenment.

As a dyed in the wool cottage gardener, I have to say that my ideal garden is one with the entire purple clan including every tint and shade between red and blue. I supposed if I were asked my favorite color now, I would actually say burgundy, wine, or maroon depending on where you went to school and what you were drinking. Cheers.