“Seek to be the Purple Thread in the Long White Gown”

As I look around the garden this year, my eye is drawn to the mauves, lilacs, purples, lavender, and deep amethyst shades in the roses, underplantings and even weeds along the roadside. I notice the purple at home probably because the colours of roses, Love Potion, Twilight Zone, Dusky Moon, Vol De Nuit, Angel Face and Simplicity Lavender, are within my view out of the kitchen, and they stand out against the foliage so much with their deep velvety purple and enticing mauves.

For centuries purple has been thought of as innovative and unique as The Greek philosopher Epictetus said in the title quote above, he wanted to be different to remain the purple thread.

Be eccentric now. Don’t wait for old age to wear purple.

Regina Brett 1956 Journalist

The same applies in the garden. Purple is different, unique and distinctive. I had moved these roses from around the garden when I put the Tea Garden in. My intended colour scheme in this area is blues, purples, and mauves with the corresponding opposite colours of yellows, oranges, and naturally green. It works well because the site sits next to a large orange tree, and also the Tea Garden has climbing Twilight Glow roses growing over it with several other yellow roses underneath; Honey Perfume and Rise and Shine.

“The most noteworthy thing about gardeners is that they are always optimistic, always enterprising, and never satisfied. They always look forward to doing better than they have ever done before.”

Vita Sackville-West Creator of Sissinghurst Gardens

All the purple plants this year are outstanding. It just goes to show how much the garden appreciates extra rainfall. There is an old-world charm and vintage look about purple and mauve roses that is very appealing. Even the spent blooms are attractive, like in the front path where the new Quicksilver climbing roses have already grown halfway up the sides of the archway. They will be spectacular next season.

The Word on Purple

  • Purple is made from a true combination of the colours of Red and Blue either through light or pigments. Purple sits between Red and Blue on the colour wheel and brings together the power of reds and the stability of blues.
  • Purple was discovered around 1200 B.C.E. Purple dye was produced along the coast of ancient Phoenicia by crushing the shells of a particular small sea snail. The substance that is extracted is called Murex from the mucus glands of the snail.
  • The Latin name for Murex is purura hence where the name purple comes from.
  • William Henry Perkin was a young chemist in 1856 who accidentally created a synthetic purple compound when attempting to synthesise quintine, an anti-malaria drug. He realised the compound could be used for dying fabrics so he patented the dye and manufactured it under the names aniline purple. Later the colour’s name was changed to ‘mauve’; based on the French name for the purple mallow flower.
  • Purple and mauve shades are colours that evoke a regal sense of mystery, royalty, bravery and imagination.
  • Royalty and wealth are symbolised by purple due to them being the only people who could afford expensive items made of purple cloth. Since ancient times purple has been more expensive to make than any other colour because purple is less common in nature, and the resources to make purple dye are much harder to find and more costly.
  • In writing, there is a phrase “purple prose” used to describe writing that is highly imaginative or perhaps exaggerated, hyperbole, or lies.
  • The Purple Heart medal in the USA is given to soldiers for commendable action of the highest order and represents bravery and courage.
  • The colour purple in Japan signifies wealth and position.
  • For decades the enigmatic nature of purple has been a symbol of the counterculture, and unconventionality, of artists and musicians. People like Prince, David Bowie, Deep Purple the band in the 60s and Jimi Hendrix highlighted the colour purple in Western Pop Culture as symbolising individuality and self-expression.
  • Purple is the most difficult colour for the eye to see.
  • Official papers can be signed in Purple ink by The Archbishop of Cyprus
  • Purple is the colour for epilepsy awareness due to the relationship with lavender; herbal treatment for the disease. In 2008 a nine-year-old Canadian Cassidy Megan created a National Purple Day, on the 26th of March, where people are encouraged to wear purple and help raise awareness of epilepsy.
  • Violet or purple is the colour of the chakra, – Sahasrara, located at the top of the head and is said to represent pure thought or infinite consciousness.
  • The Women’s Suffrage Movement in the early 1900s was represented by the colour purple as a symbol of freedom and dignity.
  • Words that describe purple shades; amethyst, blue-violet, heliotrope, lavender, lilac, magenta, mauve, wine, mulberry, orchid, amaranthine, pomegranate, plum, violet, periwinkle and magenta.

Pantone’s colour of the year for 2022 is a blue-purple colour called Very Peri. It is interesting to note the sense of positivity this colour highlights after the colour of the year 2021 at the height of the pandemic was grey.

“Very Peri blends the faithfulness and constancy of blue with the energy and excitement of red,

Leatrice Eisman Executive Director of Pantone Colour Institute

Although the Pantone colour of 2022 is more blue than purple, it is a sought after colouring for rose lovers and gardeners alike because there are no actual blue roses. There are, however, many shades of blue perennials for companion planting; Salvias, Catnips, Iris, Hyacinths, Alliums, Hydrangeas, Bluebells, Asters, Agapanthus, Daisies, Globe Thistle, Forget Me Knots, Cornflower, Lavender, Lobelia, Buddleia, Delphiniums and many more. And, of course, absolutely fantastic purple and mauve roses. From the darkest deep amethyst in Ebb Tide to the delicate palest mauve in Simplicity Lavender, Spiced Coffee and Soul Sister roses. The purple shades are so perfect in the garden because they sit opposite green on the colour wheel, creating perfectly balanced and complementary colour schemes.

Psychologists say that the colour Purple is calming and at once stimulating. It awakens our senses for intuitive and insightful observations and creates harmony and balance. Nature curiously doesn’t provide a lot of purples which makes it more exotic, mysterious and special.

“that small and shining part which makes the rest seem fair and beautiful”.


So too, in the garden, the colour purple is always unique but not to be overdone but certainly is worth a highlight here and there, especially to balance the mass of available pink roses. Wagners rose nursery online store has a tab where you can view all the roses by colour. This is the link to the Purple rose collection and the mauve rose collection for the 2022 bare root season.

The purest and most thoughtful minds are those which love color the most.

John Ruskin
Beautiful Mauve Wisteria walkway – Noojee Lee Canowindra

Inspired by the mauve and purple, blue coloured roses, the latest new roses in the garden are Twilight Zone and Big Purple. Twilight Zone is an old fashioned Grandiflora rose bred by Tim Carruth in the USA in 2013. This rose is known for spectacular floral display for the entire summer with full deep purple blooms and well rounded large bud form. The buds open to double old fashioned flowers in deep velvet with fragrance. It should reach 125 cm when fully grown with dark green foliage in an upright style. Twilight Zone rose loves the heat and is healthy and vital, so – perfect.

 “Be different. Be original. Nobody will remember a specific flower in a garden filled with thousands of the same yellow flower, But they will remember the one that managed to change its colour to purple.”

Suzzy Kassem

On the other hand, Big Purple is a large rose and should grow to 185 cm. The colour is intense, mauve to deep purple, red. I plan to plant this one in an easily accessible spot as it is marketed as a good cut flower rose; at present, in a pot until winter. Described by Wagner’s nursery as

“extremely healthy, strong and tall bush, and is covered in dark green leathery foliage making it hardy and disease resistant.”

Wagners Rose Nursrey

What more could you want in a rose plant? Big Purple rose was bred by Pat Stephens in New Zealand in 1985 as a Hybrid Tea rose. The registration name is STEbigpu and Big Purple is also meant to be resistant to blackspot, rust and mildew and very winter hardy. Time will tell and I certainly hope so.

All content Di Baker 2022

Images Di Baker or as cited

Title image Unsplash -Masaaki Komori

Title quote Epictetus, Greek, philosopher –

“Seek to be the purple thread in the long white gown.”

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