Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The New Garden Loves The Color Wheel. Let's Talk about Brown

It is hard to imagine a slogan which did more to harm  California agricultural interests and gardening enthusiasm than the slogan on this sign.

I am not a drought denier. I am the wife of an engineer. The kind of man who harnessed creativity to science to make real things which never existed outside a dream. Inventions hard to roll out on the tongue, like  automated video imagery database using photogammetry. Gerry has accomplished feats I shall never fully comprehend. But observing him solve problems for 40 years, he taught me that scientific opinion is not a firm monument in the way of the 10 Commandments. Observations change. Goals change. Knowledge changes. The more knowledge man obtains- the more profound the case for God's existence. 

He has given man great power- but not the power to change brown to green like Jesus turned water into wine. 
The sage green wall is the perfect foil for 'Love and Wishes' Salvia (from the Sunset Collection), milkweed and the monarch butterfly
California history may record 2015 as the year of the year of  California's drought-induced clinical garden depression.  On signs and billboards, paid for by the taxpayer, that "Brown is the new green. " Hogwash.  Who says? Science. The color spectrum. The color wheel.

Image result for isaac newton color wheel

In 1666, Sir Isaac Newton looked up from his study of falling apples to rationally arrange the structural relationship of colors to each other. Since then, the study of color is of encyclopedic range. However, not until the great water panic of 2015, has man panicked into hallucinating that brown and green are interchangable. Here's the truth:

Greens are composed of differing portions of blue and yellow.

According to Wikipedia "Brown is a composite color which can be produced by combining red, yellow and black,[1] or by a combination of orange and black."

Brown squirrel. Green lawn. 
Which is the ideal to predominate in a garden? Isn't it cheerier to see the brown squirrel leaping across a green lawn than it were a green rodent scampering across brown thatch?  

In Ode: Intimations of Immortality From Recollections of Early Childhood, Williams Wordsworth did not reflect on love in a scratchy hayfield. Rather he wrote: 

What thought the radiance which was once so bright
Be now forever taken from my sight, 
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower
We will grieve not, father find
Strength in what remains behind

Brown has its  honored place in gardens. Brown tree trunks, branches and composting leaves lead the eyes through the garden, leaving us in contemplative rest. But beware: brown in the garden should be like black in a home. Not so much as to be oppressive.

One of my favorite brown is compost tea for the garden
The quality manure tea bags Annie Haven makes on the family ranch tickle an amber liquid to quench the garden. Hint: make sure the family does not switch this brew with the family sweet tea: not unless you don't ever wish to be in charge of refreshments. Again. Ever.

The drought humbled us. The cost of water made us rethink our gardens. But it did not kill our desire for beautiful spaces. Instead, it makes us crave the sustaining beauty of gardens even more.

The Celebration Garden at the Huntington 
Stay tuned. My prediction for the Spring of 2016 is the start of the Great Gardening Revival. Intelligent by design, beautiful by desire.

Until we meet again, thank YOU for all You do to make the world more beautiful. 



  1. .... and of course your governor is Brown! Ha ha ha...
    I like the creativity people, and you, use to make beautiful landscapes. Interesting blog. xo Sue

  2. Hi, Sue.

    Thank you for the compliment.

    There are tons of ironic and sarcastic word-play to go with Gov Brown and his place in the green "movement".

  3. Constraints can often spark new creativity. Unfortunately, it often takes a good bit of money to implement that creativity.

    And it looks like you had a lovely visit to the Huntington as well ;-)

  4. We have the same problem in Christchurch NZ! We have been known as the Garden City and won international awards as this, but slowly over the last few years, particularly following the earthquake of 2011, the City has become brown. The use of a selected few natives all over the city has left most citizens baffled and upset at the change to what is now a monotonous and uninteresting landscape. What's more it has bred a dislike for natives in general. We have some amazing natives and in their right setting are lovely, however imprudent and template planting has left us with a city we don't recognize! really sad. While our association is challenging the non mandated changes, it is a real challenge! Ron Andrew, President, Christchurch Beautifying Association, NZ

  5. Hi Nikkipolani- ALWAYS have a great time at The Huntington- although my husband is secretly enjoying my going over on days it is closed to the public- because the gift shop is too):-I am walking pent-up demand.

    Mr.Andrew- Do stay in touch. The human spirit is indominatable. People grow weary of monotony. Please share your successes as your gardens come back to life.


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