This not about the novel of the same name by Alice Walker … just in case you thought it might be.
Purple tends to be a colour that people either take to or dislike intensely. I am reminded of this whenever a discussion turns to beetroot – that is a vegetable that people seem to love or hate. I have reacted negatively to purple furnishings and clothes before and yet there are numerous purple flowers I enjoy. One of them is bougainvillea:
These flowers come in a variety of shades and, as purple is a gradation of blue and red, the hues labelled ‘purple’ vary enormously. Anyhow, this colour bougainvillea – or perhaps a little darker and more vibrant, was the first to greet one when turning into the driveway of our farmhouse in the De Kaap Valley in the then Eastern Transvaal – now Mpumalanga. I still associate the purple varieties of bougainvillea with my mother standing outside her kitchen ready to greet us with open arms when we had travelled from afar to visit her for a while.
Of course lavender is a favourite plant in many gardens. It being fairly hardy, I am able to grow several different varieties here in spite of the vagaries of the weather. The plants are attractive in their own right and the flowers are a boon for bees – pretty to me, yet nothing like the splashes of colour that come from some commercially grown lavenders such as this one bundled up for sale!
Purple dye used to be expensive – I read that the first dyes came from shellfish – and so the colour has long been associated with wealth and royalty. The apparent rarity of it in nature has lent purple the qualities of luxury, power, and ambition along with grandeur, peace, devotion and even magic. Purple has held a supernatural aura for centuries. And yet, we seem to be blessed with a wide variety of purple flowers in this country. I recently featured the beautiful hues of purple in the blossoms of the puzzle bush/deurmekaarbos. We also have vygies and jacarandas.
The sea lavender blossoms are welcome and last for ages.
I also think of the wild impatiens, the butterfly bush, salvias, plectranthus, African violets and a number of others I have yet to identify – such as these lovely flowers blooming in the Karoo.
Purple is an eye-catching colour that combines the calm stability of blue and the fierce energy of red. This was brought home to me when I came across this back copy of what used to be a favourite magazine while I was in a ‘sorting’ mood:
How sad it is that this, along with several other magazine titles, is no longer published!
Of course I cannot leave without reminding you of this delightful poem:
Warning – Jenny Joseph
When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practise a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.