Not just a noun

This beautiful shrub almost leaped out at us.  Corolla, North Carolina, September 2013

This beautiful shrub almost leaped out at us. Corolla, North Carolina, September 2013

“All the other colors are just colors, but purple seems to have a soul. Purple is not just a noun and an adjective but also a verb – when you look at it, it’s looking back at you.” Uniek Swain*

I’m tempted to begin with Alice Walker’s well known quote about the color purple, but let us just say that I agree with those who think purple a remarkable color. That I feel the same about most colors (I would never classify the others as “just colors”) never detracts from the singular beauty of the hue that happens to be in front of my eyes at the moment.

We came upon this enormous, lovely shrub in the historic village of Corolla, North Carolina, near Currituck Lighthouse. I could not remember ever seeing anything like it before, nor could Jeff. Can someone tell us what it is? Mike, perhaps you know?  I asked the other visitors around us if any of them knew what it was, and none did, though all agreed it was remarkable.  I’ve seen smaller versions of it before, but this one was taller than we are.

In any case, this plant stood out among many other varieties in a very lovely setting. As with some irises, the vivid purple and arresting form set it apart. It may not literally have been looking back at us, but its size and color did give it an animated feeling, as if it was there to greet us.  I wouldn’t exactly say that the color purple seems to have a soul, but I confess to being something of a synesthete who experiences a kind of character or personality to colors, and purple seems active rather than passive; almost a verb.

What are your favorite colors? Do any of them seem to you to have personalities? Or do you scratch your head and wonder about the sanity of those who think that numerals, letters, automobiles and other abstract or inanimate objects have qualities that connect to animate traits in our minds?  Either way, I hope these purple blooms brighten your day!

      (*This quote is widely attributed to Uniek Swain throughout cyberspace, but I have been unable to find anything about this person other than quote attributions. Readers are invited to enlighten me on this, too.)

Don’t forget to RSVP for the upcoming party on November 9! Click on “You’re Invited!” (above) for details!


  1. MaryAnn

    Yesterday, while riding my bike, I saw one of these that was huge & gorgeous! How special that you would post this today! It is such a joy to me that we share in the pleasure of our Heavenly Father’s Creation! I often tell people, “God made that for me!”

    • Mary Ann, do you know what it is? I have the nagging feeling that it’s some common plant that I should know, but it’s just so stunning when they get huge like this. I’m happy you were able to see one! We are surrounded by countless works of the greatest artist!

  2. Carolyn

    I love the color purple. Right now, I’m in the process of doing a baby blanket for our great, great niece, her mother love purple and wanted a blanket done in purple. I’m using a color called purple mist, several different purples. My crocheting is not fast, but I’m almost done. Charlotte is a month old. I pray for Jeff all the time but will say a special one today for a good scan report tomorrow.
    Give our love to the family.and I will try to get Nicole to help me send you a picture. Hugs to all.

    • Yes, please do send a picture, and I’ll post it here on this page about purple! We won’t have any news Friday; probably will take a few days or maybe longer. You know how it goes. Plus, Jeff’s tumor board almost always has to meet to discuss what is next before they tell us what they advise him to do. We’ll keep you posted.

  3. I believe I have seen them here in OR. but don’t know the name…lovely photo to cheer the day.

    • Thanks! Hopefully somebody will know what it is. I’d love to have one growing at home somewhere. Hope you have a lovely day!

  4. Don’t forget the nuance of shades. I think the color our mother is most fond of would more particularly be described as Lavender.

    • Yes, and she looked beautiful in it. As she did in almost everything she wore.

  5. Jenelle

    Mexican Sage!!! It’s Mexican Sage! We had a HUGE one like that picture in our backyard at our old house. And the purple was bright and stunning as the picture shows. I was amazed at how fast it grows. Our boys loved the humming birds that it attracted daily. What a treat to seem the fluttering at the window. Very cool.

    • Wow, Jenelle, you got the last question right too! (about which two people ended up getting married). I will now have to investigate and see if (and where) I can get one to grow at home. It is breathtaking when it’s in bloom like that. I remember from our years in San Antonio, the Mexican Heather was also beautiful. I always said I wanted to grow that too, but so far, I never have. Thanks for the info!!!

  6. It almost seems like a lupine (akin to our Fireweed up here in Alaska). Lupine always reminds me of a Monty Python skit.

    My favorite color is blue. I love all shades, but my favorite crayon as a kid was “cornflower” blue. I love that deeper shade of sparkling blue glass. And I love the contrast of deep blues and whites together. For a great many years, I collected blue and white plates (Blue Willow pattern, some from Denmark, Lace plates, etc.) and had them on the walls in my bedroom. This last summer I had to pack them into storage with my move (now living with a friend whose walls are painted a dark red in my room, so the plates would clash). I will one day pull them out again. I find a great deal of tranquility in those shades and have always adored them.

    • I had wondered if it might be some variety of lupine. I think it’s hilarious you mentioned Dennis Moore, perhaps my favorite Monty Python character, not least because of his tendency to go off on conversational tangents, even in the middle of robbing from the rich to give to the poor! It just cracks me up the way they turned the Robin Hood character into Dennis Moore; even the theme song is funny. I love the blue shades. Did you ever collect Wedgwood jasperware? That blue is very close to cornflower blue. Jeff and I are both quite fond of blue, and it shows in our York home. We just had new quartz countertops installed in our kitchen there, and both of us were totally sold on using Blue Sahara for the color. We are very happy with it! I agree with you that blue is very tranquil. I’ve always loved the Blue Willow china, though I’ve never owned any.

      • LOL! Yes, Dennis Moore is the skit I was referring too. He cracks me up. Alas, I couldn’t afford any Wedgwood jasperware when I was at the Wedgwood pottery store in the UK. It was far too expensive for my meager budget. And almost a year ago now, I unpacked the one plate I did invest in (that cost a pretty penny) from there and managed to drop it on the floor (in a previous move) and watched in horror as it split in two. The one plate I did have on the wall of great value (because the others aren’t that expensive). I superglued it and kept it anyway, despite its flaw because I couldn’t bear to part with that one. I could have paid for a replacement on-line, but it wasn’t the one I hand picked on sale in the UK, so it didn’t feel the same. I love that countertop! VERY lovely!

        I once read a book about a little girl (when I was much younger) whose family owned a Blue Willow serving plate but had to give it up in a move due to some troubles the family was facing. She longed for that plate the whole book. I must admit that I developed a similar longing from that book too, especially after reading about the legend behind the design. It even inspired me to write a poem at one point (which I share below). I find it even more amusing that these days there are even figurines inspired by the pattern. It has become quite common place and not valuable at all, but I still adore it.

        “Blue Willow”

        For you
        I would come back
        as a bird
        my love—
        a dove
        or a swan,
        with only you
        for my mate.
        And we would soar
        through cherry blossom skies
        our lives
        forever entwined.
        You and only you
        will know the heights
        my heart can fly.

        For you
        I would come back
        as a bird
        my love—
        a heron
        or a nightingale,
        with only you
        to sing to.
        And our music
        would weave together
        beneath the pale moon.
        You and only you
        will know the song
        my body sings.

        For you
        I would come back
        as a bird
        my love—
        a cormorant
        or a pelican,
        with only you
        to explore the world with.
        And we would dive
        through oceans blue
        seeking the treasure
        of our love.
        You and only you
        will know the depths
        of my soul.

        For you
        I would come back
        as a bird
        my love.
        For you
        and only you.

        • You will not believe this, but when I saw your first comment about the Blue Willow, I immediately thought of the book by Doris Gates, which I read and loved, and which was the reason I like the Blue Willow also! Do you have a copy of the book? If not, I would love to send you one through my paperback swap – it would be used, but most of the ones I get through that club are in excellent condition, like new. They have it in stock right now and it wouldn’t cost me a cent to send you a copy – really!! Because it’s a Newberry Honor Book, it’s still in print and has a different cover than when I first read it. The cover on the version I read looked almost exactly like this one, minus the plate in the background. Thanks for the poem, it’s lovely and does capture the story very well. Always after reading the story, when I see a version of the Blue Willow pattern it’s like a coded message, a story you don’t see until you have read about it. Re: the Wedgwood – when we first started visiting the various islands of the Caribbean (after Eastern Airlines bought out Carib Air and got all their routes) I fell in love with the jasperware when I first saw it in Jamaica. I began collecting it one piece at a time. Mama would always buy us one souvenir of each place we visited, and since she liked the jasperware too, she was willing to spring for it (and it cost considerably less in the islands, particularly those associated with the UK). You can see some of my collection in this photo. I rarely run into anyone who even knows what it is, let alone likes it, but I will always love it. Many years ago Jeff met the 4th Baron Wedgwood who was signing special commemorative pieces, and he got me one of the signed pieces. I believe that is the newest piece in my collection.

          • I don’t have a copy of the book and have been looking for it for years. (Sadly, I couldn’t remember the title! And it’s such an obvious title! LOL!) How funny. I would love a copy of it.

            • OK, but you will need to email me your new address…or the one in Sitka, or anyplace where it will eventually get to you 🙂

  7. We have one growing out front! Its a Salvia, also known as a Mexican Bush Sage or Mexican Sage. They attract hummingbirds and bees. Super easy to grow in a sunny spot, requiring almost no water once established. We love ours.

    • Wow, the hummingbirds and bees are a nice bonus. I wish we had more sunny spots on our lot. The only places where we have room for a larger shrub are all fairly shady. Of course, I guess you can keep the size down, but that enormous one was truly fabulous. Thanks for the info!

      • From what I’ve read, they really do need the full sun to thrive. Our plant is at the curb and gets full sun all day long. It’s amazing to me that I’ve not watered it in ten years!

        • Sounds like my kind of plant!

  8. Hey if it likes the sun I can plant one where the butterfly bush was that the sun cooked and the deer ate. It is lovely. My favorite color is red. I guess I am a power girl or a mad girl. Either way, I love red. Take care my friend. Love you.

    • Amy, we’ll have to go hunting for one of those to go in your yard if I can’t find a place for one in mine. Unless the deer would eat it too? I love red flowers and absolutely must have a touch of red (or at least pink) annual color somewhere every year. Hawaii had such gorgeous red tropical blooms on the anthurium, heliconia, hibiscus and red ginger, to name just a few. Our tiny “postage-stamp size” back yard had a tall hedge of red hibiscus on all 3 sides that bloomed year round. I also love Chinatown during the holidays because there is so much red on display there. You and I should go to Chinatown in DC for Lunar New Year next year. I think it falls on January 31 this time.

  9. Bobby Harris

    I had a row of these in Seaford and now have a couple of plants here in Indy. Mexican Sage is a perennial in VA. I’m afraid it is not in Indiana, but I will try to protect it and see what happens. The purple is not the flower but the cover of the bud, the flower is white. I mixed Pineapple sage with the Mexican sage, and had a wonderful mix of red and purple. God’s colors always work together. I don’t know if the deer eat it–they were too busy eating my daylilies and hosta.

    • Bobby, thanks for that interesting info! Someone else explained to me that the poinsettia “flowers” are actually the leaves. God’s palette is indeed delightful, often imitated but never duplicated! If the Mexican Sage is perennial in VA, that settles it – I HAVE to plant one for us, even if I dig into the middle of my front yard to do it! (Just joking, although I have been toying with the idea of creating a flower bed bordering the yard since we have so many trees everywhere else that we have very little direct sun for flowers.) What is it about hostas? We finally gave up on them. We never figured out whether it was the squirrels or rabbits or both devouring ours (the deer can’t get through the fence that separates our wooded lot from our yard, at least in theory) but they seemed to go for those first of all, every time. It’s as if the hostas are marked with some sort of scent that translates to “FREE FOOD, HERE!” in an animal’s nose. During the years Jeff was in dental school, our shady back yard in Memphis was full of glorious, huge hostas that got bigger each year. We’ve tried (and failed) to get those results ever since.

  10. Mike Bertoglio

    Not familiar with this one. Mexican sage huh? We have pineapple sage here with small red flowers, but the leaf does look like sage. Also Russian sage- my personal favorite. If you like purple you could also try the Rose of Sharon of which I saw several beautiful specimens in Atlanta on our last visit. They don’t do as well here in the Northwest clime. When we move to Atlanta I will have to get one.

    • Wow, that Russian Sage is gorgeous too. I had never heard of it. We do have a Rose of Sharon which I planted back in a sunny spot of our wooded lot, where we had cleared a huge fallen tree and had the stump ground up. It left a relatively bare area that initially got a lot of light, but eventually got shadier as everything grew all around it, so nowadays my Rose of Sharon is very tall (trying to find the sun) and doesn’t bloom nearly as profusely as it did years ago. But I love it and it has been one of the few things we have planted that has been able to survive the wooded environment. I respect its ability to survive and even bloom sparsely despite the trees that are continually competing with it for sun, water and whatever else makes a plant thrive.

      • BTW the Rose of Sharon is so similar to the hibiscus we had in Hawaii that I can’t help but wonder if it isn’t part of that same family?

  11. Emily Laveder

    For me, it’s Lavender. It’s always been my favorite color and my favorite scent. It’s comforting and soothing and relaxing to me. I’ve planted many with only a little success, but the ones that have grown I adore! =)

    • Emily, I too LOVE lavender. Our neighbor in San Antonio used to grow it and bring me bouquets of it. I’ve never been able to grow any as lovely as hers, and that’s a mystery to me, since San Antonio was not the best place for gardening, especially in our neighborhood, which sat atop limestone. I thought it was SO cool when you married a guy who was actually named Lavender! I thought that “Emily Lavender” sounded like a perfect name for a Victorian-style column about gracious living. It fits you to a T – obviously the name you were destined to take on one day! Thanks for being here!

  12. I did note that others have filled you in on the name of the purple sage. Alys was to demure to attach her recent post of the same plant, so I will have to brag for her 😀
    I of course took my own photo’s while I visited. It might not appear to be, but it’s as tall (if not taller) than me and the flower is very velvety. Not a contender in my climate zone, unfortunately. Purple happens to be her sister Sharon’s favourite colour too.

    I must confess, I am never drawn to purples. It seems like an old, dark and mysterious colour for me. Like the inside of Dracula’s cape or the gown of a tyrant Queen (sleeping beauty) or even bruises of which I’m familiar because I’m so clumsy 😀

    I tend to fancy nostalgic colours, like aqua, sea-foam, soda fountain pink, coral. I love to see these colours on clothes, cars, decor and more. I guess it reminds me of what seemed like a prosperous time after the war when people had large families, kids played till after dark in their neighbourhood and TV was black and white. Innocence and naiveté, I suppose it’s comes down to that.

    • Wow, how cool is that, Alys had already posted about that plant when I was asking everyone what it was!! Yes, I thought it looked quite large in the photo. So it’s low maintenance; that would explain why it looked so wonderful in that park, if it pretty much takes care of itself.

      Re: the nostalgic colors – the first house (not apartment) Jeff and I lived in was an older one with aqua colored bathroom tiles, tub, sink and toilet. We had a turquoise fridge and stove when I was a child, before they got replaced with the trendy “avocado” green that became popular later, when “harvest gold” was also in style. I like all colors but I tend to go for blues and greens in the home, though NOT avocado green – it’s SO 1970’s! We had an avocado green kitchen floor in our base housing in Hawaii and it took me forever to convince them to replace it – what a relief!


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