Stripes and Spots
Yesterday, cleaning up a hybrid Phormium which had reappeared after the autumn cut-back, I discovered the true symbolism of stripes and spots in the foliage garden.
I hadn't ever taken much notice of stripe details before, particularly the distinct bands of colour which are combined so artistically in the New Zealand flaxes. I've been content to use blended adjectives, and talk about the 'pinky-creamy-green' flax in the Island Bed, and the 'cherry-reddy-pinky-greeny-brown' one up the driveway.
Selection of Coloured Striped Phormiums
The stripe designs are so varied, too, even in one plant. Some leaves look like barcodes with their random widths, while others, obviously believers in ruler-precise symmetry, line up in fractions of halves, thirds and quarters. I've even found a leaf which reminds me of the first scarf I ever knitted, filled with regular coloured bands - two rows of each colour. Hmmm... Terracotta, crimson, russet brown and pale lime.... On second thoughts, I don't remember my scarf being quite so artistic.
The more I thought about stripes in my garden and my life, the more important they became. I realised that for 50 years my self-esteem has depended on the illusion that vertical stripes make a girl/woman look slimmer. No wonder I love my flaxes. Then I thought of the cannas that I love - like Tropicana, with its stripes of red, orange and green forming a vee. This would be very slimming on a waistcoat.
Striped Canna Leaves
Whereas a waistcoat modelled on Miscanthus Zebrinus (with horizontal striped bands) would be totally fattening - perhaps this is why several gardening friends have recently dug out theirs...
Spots suddenly made a lot of sense. I've never quite been able to take them seriously, and although I like my spotty Ligularia very much it's always been a bit of a giggle. Spotty clothes were always worn by the giggly girls, anyway. And we won't spoil things by talking about black spots, or a young girl back in the sixties who sewed herself a navy spotted trouser suit...
Spotty Leopard Plant
I got back to clearing around the flax. In its striped foliage I have rediscovered some of the defining moments of my journey through girl/womanhood. Good grief! I think I'd better just stick to gardening.