Sunday, May 30, 2010

Color in the Garden: Silver (Foxes)

Many women seem to find men with salt and pepper hair attractive. I believe they are called "Silver Foxes." I have two colleagues, both of whom are exceptionally attractive even without the sprinkling of white and gray, who turn women's heads. I learned that some (now former) students even texted each other when the elder of the two silver foxes would enter the coffee shop. "Silver Fox arrvd." No studying was done on those days. Eye candy supersedes intellectual treats. 

Silver has something of the same effect in the garden. If my gardens passed through their early spring blue phase, they now experience their yellow phase. Sedum ellacombanium and Corydalis lutea display their glory, which only accentuates the yellow pigmentation in the chartreuse Lysimachia (Creeping Jenny), which itself has produced diminutive butter cup-like flowers. The eye needs a rest, and to rest it comes especially at the east/southeast entry to the front garden.

There, I have planted the Helene von Stein varietal of Lamb's Ear--a much more compact and heartier version that the usual type, which sends up scraggly flowers and looks worn by mid-summer. On the other side of the walkway is a Provence Lavender which, though not silver, has enough of the blue-grey in its green to complement the lovely Helene. Each day I see Ms. von Stein I am reminded of another Helene in my life, the inimitable artist from Denver, and her elegant, erudite partner Joanne. I own one original Orr, a water color of a majestic tree painted in glorious autumn golds shrouded by a midnight blue sky. Joanne salvaged it from a pile and offered it to me; Helene balked in the way all artists do at some perceived imperfection, but eventually acquiesced and signed the back "To Matt and Viet: Do with it what you will. Love, Helene." Quintessential Helene, to be sure: Pithy. Affectionate. Utterly inimitable. And for the record: if there is some imperfection in this particular piece, which I have assigned a most prominent wall-space in the house (directly across the front door so that it is the first thing a visitor sees) then it is perfectly imperfect.

As usual, I digress.

In honor of the 27 May Full Flower Moon, a.k.a. the Milk Moon, I purchased a Glacier Blue Euphorbia, and planted it in the spot where my English lavender once stood. Peering through the legginess of Verbena bonariensis (a.k.a. Purpletop or Tall Verbena) and the Provence lavender, one can see a clear axis of silver to Helene von Stein, linking parts of the garden.

From another angle, the silver of Glacier Blue connects to the white of the variegated Siberian iris. Silver soothes, gives the eyes a rest, as the yellow season peaks in 410's front sun garden.

I transplanted the Feverfew yesterday, which underscores the silver patches in the garden and connects the white in the Glacier Blue Euphorbia with the variegated Siberian iris. Together, they form a formidable triumvirate, its center punctuated by the lighter hues of the anvil-like rock.

As in ordinary life, the eye surveys the landscape and invariably comes to rest on the understatedly spectacular. Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but the silver fox arrests all. If silver is the essence of glamour, if silver is the color of sophistication, then silver may very well also be the lingua franca of attraction.

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