“Brand New,” “New and Improved,” “All New.”
We are all familiar with these advertising slogans. They must be effective because we keep hearing and seeing them, over and over again.
Lust for something new is not confined to our 21st-century world but is rather an expression of an inherent human need which, in truth, can never be satisfied. In the opening lines of the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes (1:8-9), King Solomon wrote of our “insatiable eye” and then observed that “there is nothing new under the sun.”
But in contrast to this sobering reality, there is the following inspiration from Marcel Proust, a French writer who lived from the end of the 19th to the beginning of the 20th century. “The real voyage of discovery,” Proust wrote, “consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
If you are a gardener, winter is the season for putting on new glasses, for “having new eyes.”
Although there are brilliant flashes of seasonal color this time of year — in poinsettias, cyclamens and English primroses, for example — you will cherish familiar flowers so much more, seeing them with new eyes, when flowers in general are scarce.
Just the other day, I could not take my eyes off a window box of those classic zonal geraniums (Geranium hortorum), the red ones with orange undertones, next to some pink, followed by some white, ultimately punctuated by a single yellow marigold. (Incidentally, we call such geraniums “zonal” not on account of their flowers but because of their leaves, which display a distinctive band or zone near their leaf margins that darkens as foliage fades.)
In the midst of May and June, the peak months for flowers in Los Angeles gardens, no special attention is given to geraniums or marigolds. But in winter, it’s a different story.
There is something singularly silky about geranium petals and then those marigold ruffles are truly extraordinary, I suddenly realized. I was also reminded that pink is the color which combines perfectly with every other, from red-orange to yellow.
No wonder Rosa mutabilis or butterfly rose is planted as an informal hedge, growing up to 10 feet in height.
Its flowers are yellow when they open, turning orange, and then various shades of pink. There is never a dull moment with this rose, and its combination of color changes is instructive, since yellow, orange and pink are all visible…