Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The color purple.

My love affair with purple plants started at age six or seven, when I toted home my first six-pack of deep purple pansies from the grocery store. I loved how the leaves looked like velvet.

In Los Angeles, where gardening is fun because you can dig and weed and not sweat, purple was my go-to color. Even now, 20 years later, I can close my eyes and remember the lavender that grew waist high on the side of Peg and Kenny’s house in Venice. It is a beautiful memory.

For the first few years in Memphis, I tried to grow lavender, with little success. Then I discovered Baptisia australis at a Lichterman Center plant sale. The plant is a great Midsouth substitute for lavender. It's drought tolerate, not picky about soil, and I've never seen a bug that liked it. Plus, it's purple.

Commonly called wild False Indigo, the flowers remind me of sweet peas. It has a long and interesting history as it's been cultivated since the early 1700's. Native Americans used Baptisia for dye and to treat tooth aches. Me, I like to look at how it twists and turns, seeking out the sun - a tough job in a yard like mine that is so heavily guarded by pin oaks.

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