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Colour in flowers by The Colourist

August 08, 2021 1 Comment

The Colourist aka Helen Trevisiol Duff blogging logo

Like many of you, I've always loved my garden and I rejoice in the daily changes and new blooms that appear.

 Hummingbirds by Helen Trevisiol artist

Hummingbirds by Helen Trevisiol
Mixed media; watercolour and gouache on Arches watercolour paper 300gsm. 31 x 21cm mounted

£180

Colour and form in the garden

As a painter and wildlife enthusiast I'm inspired by colour and form in my garden and local area - and care about the ecosystem through the changing seasons, and how we can protect biodiversity.

It’s intriguing to think about how and why flowers produce so many different and incredible colours. As gardeners we often select plants by a flower’s colour. The selection becomes more meaningful with an understanding of how and why they look the way they do.

In the same way that we may select colours inside our homes, many of us plan our gardens with a colour theme. We need to ask ourselves what this is doing to our environment ? 

Floral commissions

Yellow hibiscus by Helen Trevisiol artist

Yellow hibiscus by Helen Trevisiol
Watercolour on paper.

37 x 28cm mounted
£220

As artists, many of our clients commission artwork with particular colour preferences. I've often been asked to paint a watercolour commission of a favourite flower which has sentimental meaning for my client. I paint wedding bouquets too as a memory of the special day.

I've recently moved to West Yorkshire in a rural area with an abundance of diversity in plant life.

A "breathtaking" garden design in The Hepworth Wakefield

Lillies floral artwork by British figurative artist Stella Tooth

Lillies by Stella Tooth
Oil on round canvas

30 x 30 x 1.5cm
£275

I visited The Hepworth Wakefield and was in awe at the award-winning garden design by Tom Stuart-Smith who was described in The Telegraph as the most influential, taste-forming garden designer in the UK. His garden in The Hepworth is breathtaking. A myriad of architectural planting in yellow and purple with tones of green.  He has carefully selected over 14,000 herbaceous perennials, 120 metres of beech hedging and 60,000 spring bulbs for the Hepworth garden. Wow! This garden will fashion and influence so many people's choices in creating their own gardens. Stuart-Smith has carefully chosen the blooms and plants for their colour which will change through the seasons creating all year interest and evolving vistas.

When I visited it was a riot of yellow and purple. Gorgeous ! 

How do flowers get their colours?

I wondered how flowers got their colour. Why is an iris purple and a sunflower yellow?  I started to look at this in more depth. The diversity of colour in our gardens can be explained by basic science and it's intriguing.

The chemicals in the petals of a flower that give them their different colour are called anthocyanins. These are water-soluble compounds that belong to a larger class of chemicals known as flavonoids. Anthocyanins are the chemicals responsible for making the colours red, pink, blue and purple in flowers.

Many gardeners love the yellow of a daffodil or a sunflower, while others prefer the purple of an iris and the pink of peonies. The variety of colour in our gardens is there  in nature for cross-pollination - buy also as a result of our selection, as we have designed our landscapes ourselves.

The colours we see in flowers are created from the DNA of a plant. Genes in a plant’s DNA direct cells which then produce pigments of a variety of colours. 

When a flower is blue, for instance, it means that the cells in the petals have produced a pigment that absorbs all colours of light but blue. When we see  that flower, it reflects blue light, so it appears to be blue. The same applies to red etc. it's all about evolutionary survival, which is the reason for having flower colour genetics to begin with.

The pollinators 

The reproductive parts of plants are flowers. They attract bees and birds [pollinators] to pick up pollen and bring it to other flowers and plants, so that the pollen is transferred allowing the plant to reproduce. Many flowers release pigments that can only be seen by bees in the ultraviolet part of the light spectrum. Some flowers fade over time, or change colour, letting the pollinators know that the flowers are past their prime, and pollination is no longer required. Isn't nature incredible?

In addition to attracting the birds, insects and bees to pollinate them, flowers have been developed over centuries to be attractive to us. Garden companies and nurseries cultivate the most popular blooms and there have always been trends in flowers that are fashionable.

I question whether playing with nature like this is right as we have upset the balance of nature and the ecosystem.  If a flower is colourful and pretty, we humans will cultivate that plant. This ensures it keeps growing. Biodiversity loss is being neglected, yet protecting biodiversity might well be becoming an even more urgent problem than other pressing global problems such as climate change.

Deciding on colour 

Flower colour in plants is one of the biggest determinants for how we choose what to grow. We are in control of nature. Is that a good idea? 

We only need to visit the local florist to see what's on offer or our garden center to pick up bulbs to see what is being pre-decided for us. In the same way that a colour becomes fashionable for a home interior, plants and flowers are cultivated on trend. Exotic indoor plants are on trend right now meaning more cheese plants,Yuccas and palms are being produced to meet the demand. The cultivated houseplant market is continuing to innovate and grow more plants. Dried flowers and pampas grass is in demand as well as dyed dry flowers responding to a new trend emerging.

I firmly believe in respecting the nature of plants and flowers - and in being as responsible in plant sourcing as possible.

It's so important to respect nature.

Biodiversity and our responsibility

Biodiversity encompasses all life on earth. Including animals, plants, flowers, fungi, corals, insects and includes all species on the planet. An average of 25 percent of species in animal and plant groups are being threatened, meaning at least 1million species already face extinction. Human activity has significantly changed exploitation of organisms through pollution, hunting, poaching and trade using nature as a means to our ends.

Biodiversity protects the integrity of the world's ecosystem. We have a responsibility to protect this and can support environmental organisations which do vital work in researching the natural environment and educate ourselves and others on the importance of biodiversity conservation and wildlife habitats. We can encourage wildlife in our own gardens by planting pollinator friendly plants and flowers. We can get involved in our local community improving our local neglected areas.

Wild meadows

Wild meadows have been planted by many cities over the last 3 years and are coming into full bloom, transforming urban landscapes and helping our ecosystem. Many borough councils are planting red poppies, cow parsley and blue cornflowers amidst a sea of nettles, wild grasses and wild species. These city meadows create biodiversity in nature, attracting pollinators and creating wellbeing. A Monet landscape amongst high rise flats and offices has become a wonderful addition to local neighbourhoods, protecting the bees and cultivating species endangered or on the verge of extinction.

Poppies original floral artwork by Stella Tooth

Poppies by Stella Tooth
Oil on canvas
Circular, 30x30x1.5cm
£275

The gift of flowers 

Whether you're gifting a hand tied bouquet, letterbox flowers or a beautiful painting or vase  to celebrate an anniversary, birthday, graduation or just because, the recipient will know its personal and they will feel valued and cared for.

Floral artwork makes a great gift for whatever the reason.

Magnolia flowers original artwork by Amanda Gosse

Pink magnolia blooms by Amanda Gosse
Acrylic on canvas panel 
20 x 20cm 
£200

Skylark artists 

Many of our artists at skylark galleries work on flowers either in meadows, vases or as patterns in their artwork.

To celebrate summer and the variety of blooms here are some more of the paintings our artists have created.

Original artwork by Carol Edgar

Dusky Pink by Carol Edgar
Canvas acrylic painting
12"x12"
£225 

The Colourist aka Helen Trevisiol Duffblogger logo




1 Response

Mary Torpy-Dyer
Mary Torpy-Dyer

August 09, 2021

This was beautifully written Helen. Thank you so much for brightening my day with your lovely profound thoughts and artwork.

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