A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


A Study in Blue
Tuesday, 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.


Previous Posts
Indiana Luna - Supreme Elegance

The Love Of A Mother

Waltzing In With Style

Model Protocol

CBC Group Show

Rebecca's Improper Fractions

Two Coroners - One Never Smiled

Jim Carroll - Catholic Boy - Confirmation

Rebecca, Inesita & La Redonda

The Bishop of Hippo, Floria Aemilia & The Bitch

January 2006

February 2006

March 2006

April 2006

May 2006

June 2006

July 2006

August 2006

September 2006

October 2006

November 2006

December 2006

January 2007

February 2007

March 2007

April 2007

May 2007

June 2007

July 2007

August 2007

September 2007

October 2007

November 2007

December 2007

January 2008

February 2008

March 2008

April 2008

May 2008

June 2008

July 2008

August 2008

September 2008

October 2008

November 2008

December 2008

January 2009

February 2009

March 2009

April 2009

May 2009

June 2009

July 2009

August 2009

September 2009

October 2009

November 2009

December 2009

January 2010

February 2010

March 2010