A Study in BlueTuesday, May 15, 2007
Just about everybody remembers Newton's experiment with white light shining through a prism and fracturing to red, orange, yellow, green, blue indigo and violet. Few today know that panchromatic b+w film, colour film, video and digital sensors, while sensitive to those colours, are sensitive with a shift towards the blue. Humans shift towards the red which is why red is so much more visible to us and fire engines are red except in Surrey, BC where they are lime green/yellow. This is why people argue about turquoise. Some will swear it is more blue others will say it is more green. We can always agree on red but with the blues there will always be doubts.
In the plant kingdom few flowers are a true blue. Blue hosta leaves are bluer to cameras, be they digital or film because blue hosta leaves reflect lots of ultra violet a colour that we humans cannot see. And since blue hostas are usually in the shade, there is more blue light (and UV) in the shade. Many blue flowers that we think are blue photograph as lilac or violet. Perhaps one of the only really blue flowers is the blue Himalayan poppy, Meconopsis grandis or Meconopsis betonicifolia.
This incredibly difficult plant to grow (it loves dappled shade, rich and acid moist soil all features of Vancouver gardens yet.....) was introduced to Vancouver by our Blue Poppy Lady A.K.A Marion McDonnell.
She was a most welcome fixture at the mostly rainy yearly VanDusen plant sales where in her plastic rain bonnet she would hand eager (and overly optimistic gardeners) her blue poppies which she grew from seed. Depending on the day she would either say they were Meconopsis grandis or Meconopsis betonicifolia. I failed to ever have one of my many plants repeat from one year to another. Here you can see Marion Mcdonnell in her garden with her beloved poppies and her Gretchen.
Her good friend "Cookie", A.K.A. Alleyne Cook picked his "bluest" Rhododendron augustinii and named it as the cultivar ( a selected plant from a garden) Rhododendron augustinii 'Marion McDonnell'. By strict botanical nomenclature rules this cultivar would then be called only Rhododendron 'Marion McDonnell'.
Last week I photographed Rebecca in front of my Rhododendron augustinii 'Marion McDonnell' and as you can see that while it is very beautiful it is not really blue. It is located not far from where I photographed Rebecca a few years ago holding the flower of Hydrangea macrophylla 'Blue Wave' which really is blue to the eye but not as blue to film.