I’m having a Magenta day. Not just red, but Magenta!

My rose garden began with my desire to play with colour. Like an artist’s palette, the colours and hues available in roses are endless. Colour is everywhere; we see colours, feel them, taste, touch, and smell them and they have a profound effect on us in natural and numerous ways; moods, behaviour, circadian rhythms, motivation, relationships, emotions, creativity, energy, reactions, appetite and memory. In the garden, as in painting, textiles, decor and fashion, colour is a chance to be absorbed with the interactions of colour hues, shades, tones and schemes.

Magenta is one of my favourite colours, especially in the garden in rose blooms. But, as with all hues and tones of colour, some sit well in the garden, and others can look garish and brash. True Magenta to my eye is a bright, clean deep crimson pink with plenty of light in the colour hue; In Appreciation, Best Friend, Peter Frankenfeld, Manou Meilland, Enchanting, Parole, and Strawberry Daiquiri roses are some of the varieties that bring magenta into my garden.

Magenta is a secondary colour that sits between the two primary colours on the colour wheel red and blue. The mix of two primary colours together creates a striking shade of pinky-purple. Magenta is also part of the set of modern primary colours in printing; cyan, yellow, magenta and black, these are called CYMK. These four colours can be used to create all other colours on the colour spectrum. 

My father once nearly came to blows with a female dinner guest about whether a particular patch of embroidery was fuchsia or magenta. But the infinite gradations of colour in a fine sunset – from salmon to canary to midnight blue – left him wordless.

Alison Bechdel

The complementary colour to Magenta is green because it sits opposite on the colour wheel, which is why magenta blooms will glow and look striking against lush green foliage in the garden. The tones vary in rose blooms from hot pink to a deeper purple pink and can be used as an accent colour, focal points or borders.

Not only roses but many plants with Magenta flowers bring life to dull areas, and can be seen late into the evening still glowing in the garden; Bougainvillea, Dianthus, Azaleas, Buddleia, Bottlebrush, Rose Campion, Pelargoniums and Salvias.

Viva Magenta is the Pantone Colour Institute’s colour of the year for 2023, with the code name Pantone 18-1750.

Viva Magenta Courtesy of The New York Times

Colours are very subjective, and we all have differing ideas about what colours are and how we perceive them. As I see it, the 2023 Viva Magenta is not true Magenta but a more reddish, purple-pink. Nonetheless, a world with more shades of Magenta is welcome. This season, the colour hues of Berry, Magenta, Plum, and Fuchsia are seen in numerous marketing strategies, packaging, design elements and fashion.

Viva Magenta is described by the Pantone Colour institute’s executive director Leatrice Eiseman as

An unconventional colour for an unconventional time. 
In the third year of a global pandemic, Viva Magenta brings a vivid, audacious and rebellious energy that’s much more exuberant than the chosen colours in past years. 

The Pantone Colour Institute has declared a ‘colour of the year ‘ every year since 2000. They observe world trends and events in fashion, film, technology, and interior design and choose a colour to mirror the culture and the mood of the time. Pantone describes “Viva Magenta as

A nuanced crimson tone that represents the balance between warm and cool. A shade that comfortably straddles the physical and the virtual.

Unsplash Image

Viva Magenta reflects our recent time with the pandemic almost behind us but not quite, we all need some energy and optimism to move forward. Viva Magenta was inspired by the natural world from the colours of the cochineal beetle and then given over to Artificial Intelligence to become Viva Magenta, the perfect blend of the physical, and the virtual – audacious and a touch rebellious. Being halfway between Red and Blue on the colour wheel Magenta, although not an actual colour, because unlike other colours Magenta has no wavelength; it is positioned between where red fades into blue. It is always vivacious, uplifting and cheerful. How could anyone feel sad wearing or looking at Magenta!

The colour name Magenta came from a village in Italy in a small Province of Milan where a battle took place between Austria and France. France claimed victory despite severe losses on both sides and the battlefield was so red from the blood that the fields were stained a reddish purple. After the war, a dye was developed from coal tar to remember the battlefields, and the shade was named Magenta.

Let me, bathe my soul in colours; let me swallow the sunset and drink the rainbow.”

Kahlil Gibran

Unsplash Image of True Magenta Rose bloom

The dye for Magenta was developed chemically in 1856, but because of the poor lightfastness of the dye, the bright pink colour today is made on the pigment Quinacridone. During the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, chemistry was emerging as a new science that led to the discovery that many raw materials could be manufactured synthetically. Since then, there has been a difference between synthetic and natural dyes and pigments, and the names would often indicate their origins. For example, Sepia means Squid in Italian, Indian yellow and Madder from madder plants. Synthetically made dye like the bright red pink in 1856 was triaminotriphenyl carbonium chloride. It was the colour of a fuchsia plant called Fuchsine, but after the Italian battle, it was given the official name Magenta.

For many decades English and American gardeners avoided using Magenta in their gardens because it was considered unnatural, gaudy and even poisonous. The great British horticulturist Gertrude Jekyll was one of the prime advocates of loathing Magenta and was often quoted making disparaging comments about Magenta, such as this quote from 1899.

“Crimson is a word to beware of; it covers such a wide extent of ground, and is used so carelessly in plant-catalogues, that one cannot know whether it stands for a rich blood colour or for malignant magenta. For the latter class of colour the term amaranth, so generally used in French plant-lists, is extremely useful, both as a definition and as a warning.”

Gertrude Jekyll

Duet Roses with Parole rose bloom in Magenta

Malignant magenta, was heard for decades after, and the purplish-pink hue was avoided by many gardeners. Another horticulturalist Edward Augustus Bowles also spoke of his distaste of the Magenta hue and n 1914 he bemoaned in an essay called My Garden in Summer,

awful form of floral original sin, magenta” in Geraniums.

Edward Augustus Bowles

I wonder what these gardeners would think of the new Viva Magenta 18-750 now in 2023 ?

Content Di Baker 2023

Images Di Baker unless otherwise cited from Unsplash.com

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