Since visiting the garden of Linda Hostetler in The Plains, Virginia, I’ve spent a long time trying to feel blue. I mean feel it – to understand the science behind why gardeners love this eye-popping blue called ultramarine (and sometimes Majorelle blue, after the painter and his garden).
As my camera and I slowly explored Hostetler’s interesting front yard, a voice whispered, “If you haven’t seen the back garden yet, go!” Go, I did, and discovered a large, attractive garden alight with ultramarine. Everywhere. In other hands, so much colour might overwhelm – or even ultramarinate – the space. Judging by the reactions all around me, this single, strong accent created a lot of excitement. A sampling.
As you might guess from a couple of these pictures, the light at this time of day was not my friend. From the stone bench, Hostetler placed blue-painted arbors leading to walkways in many directions, each taking you past blue treasures among well-composed plantings.
What makes this blue so appealing as a garden accent? When it came to life as a pigment, 6,000 years ago, ultramarine was rare and costly, ground from semi-precious lapis lazuli stone. But the birth of industrial chemistry in the 1800s led to inexpensive synthetics, so cost no longer signifies its value. Yet, it pops up over and over.
Ultramarine sits, with green, on the “cool” side of the colour wheel. Used together, they create an analogous colour scheme. In theory, this should be harmonious and restful. Hot colours advance and stimulate, cool colours recede and calm, right? But theory and sensory experience differ here. This intense blue, hinting almost of purple, has pop and pull. Perhaps the paradox of a hot-cool colour gives it appeal. What do you think?
Hostetler’s wasn’t the only garden on the DC-region Garden Bloggers Fling to add ultramarine for a splash of drama.
The objects below aren’t all “true blue.” Some live on the borderline tints, tones and shades of this vibrant hue. Sometimes ultramarine acts as an under-colour. In the second image below, it’s paired with the blue-green or green-blue I’ve learned has the delightfully over-consonanted (hey, I make words up for a living) phthalo green. This pleasing combo crops up in other examples, too.
Above, from left: Blue-haired figure in Ellen Ash garden; Planter in Scott Brinitzer garden; Seating at Hillwood Estate; Potscape at Casa Mariposa; Bottle art in Barbara Katz garden.
And a ramble through my photo files from Flings past uncovered a wealth of inspiring examples, including of course plants. Open the slideshow to view larger, sharper images by clicking any picture in this post.
What do you feel about ultramarine – has-been, too-little-seen, or in-between?