leonie cornelius

DESIGN. STORIES. WILD CONNECTIONS
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Photo © Colin Gillen/framelight.ie

GARDEN 101-The power of Green

When you think about gardens what is the first colour that comes to mind? You will undoubtedly answer green and this is no surprise considering that green is the colour of most planting and considered the colour most associated with Springtime, nature and growth. Even the word green comes from the middle English and Anglo Saxon word ‘grene’ which, like the German word grün has the same germanic root as the words ‘grass’ and ‘grow’.

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The colour green is the colour between blue and yellow on the spectrum of light an is considered an additive primary colour among with red and blue. It is very common in nature because of the process of photosynthesis where a complex chemical compound called chlorophyll absorbs wavelengths of red and blue light much more quickly than what appears green to our eyes. This  means that light reflected by plants appears green to us.

There are many interesting historical and symbolic associations with the colour green.

In Ancient Egypt for example the colour was the symbol of rebirth and regeneration due to the fact that the annual flooding of the Nile allowed crops to grow in their green glory. The colour green was also used as a pigment for the walls of tombs and on papyrus paper and for this the artists ground up Malachite stone which was mined in the Sinai desert and other places. In fact, a paintbox of ground malachite was found in the tomb of King Tutankhamun and the ancient Egyptians also added green stone scarab beetles into the coffins with the mummified bodies.
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Interestingly the colour green did not hold a great significance in Ancient Greece and green and blue were even sometimes considered the same colour-one which described both the colour of trees and the colour of the sea. The ancient Romans on the other hand placed greater significance in the colour green and was considered the colour for Venus the goddess of fertility, love, beauty and gardens as well as growing vegetables and vineyards.

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In the middle ages and the Renaissance green developed to have a strong symbolic meaning and this was rooted in the social hierarchy of the time. Green was worn by merchants, gentry and bankers while red was only worn by nobility and grey and brown were the colours worn by peasants. 

In modern times there are many different associations with green in our everyday lives. From environmental links to being ‘green’ or youthful and inexperienced to links with money or even to the safety to proceed in traffic. In emotions we have everything from calm to the feeling of jealousy and more. 
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There are actual physical effects on your body when you surround yourself with green

 Considering however that the most common association of the colour is nature, it is no wonder that the colour green makes us feel calm and relaxed. Holistically considered green is the colour of healing and rejuvenation and the colour of the heart chakra. Interestingly there is more to this ‘feel-good effect’  of green than you think. In fact, there are actual physical effects on your body when you surround yourself with green. Green is said to stimulate your pituitary gland, which makes your blood histamine levels increase and it leads to lower blood pressure- no wonder green has a calming effect on your body. 
So, it is no wonder so that being surrounded by green in the garden is good for you. The practice of gardening of course has so many health benefits in itself, from being a simple, safe work-out to being surrounded by fresh air and being connected to nature and your surrounding environment. Most of all though, being surrounded by the endless shades of the colour green is inspiring, healthy and healing. Long live the colour green! 
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Green Gems in the Garden
Most plants have green foliage but it’s not often that the actual flowers of plants are also green. Here are some fab flowers that have green in their blooms. 
Euphorbia x martinii
This small variety of the Euphorbia or spurge family is a great addition for a smaller space and has stunning green flowers with small red centres which bloom from March to July. The flowers on this specimen are very long lasting and it is a very well balanced and elegant one that works in almost any scheme. These great evergreen Euphorbias work so well as support plants in almost any scheme but look very visual in their own right. 
Helleborus foetidus
This is a fascinating plant. A lovely shade of green-almost jade like in colour, this Hellebore is also known as the ‘stinking hellebore’. The reason for this is that the leaves give off an unpleasant odour when crushed. The plant itself is very evergreen and architectural in shape making it a great one to create drama in shady corners of the garden. Another bonus is that it flowers from January to April so will give the Winter and Spring garden some interest. 
Echinacea ‘Green Envy’
This unique coneflower variety is very unusual indeed. The exotic colour is a lovely mix -emerging as green and blending to pink as time goes on. Like all coneflowers this is a must for the wildlife garden and from June to September this beauty will be covered in  butterflies and bees. A fascinating fact is that the colour of the pink centre darkens further as the seasons change and by the end of the flowering season it will have turned a deep rich purple.
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There are endless shades of green and any are based on things found in nature such as plants or gems. Here are a few examples:
Emerald Green
Moss green
Lime Green
Jade green
Malachite green
Olive green

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Photo By: Colin Gillen

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