Barany In the Garden: Go for Color in the Garden | – Low Calorie Diets Tips

Every morning for the past two weeks I’ll grab my cup of coffee at dawn and go out into the garden to harvest ‘Lauren’s Grape’ (Papaver somniferum) poppies.

Yesterday I stopped counting after cutting 200 stems. These poppies might be my favorite flower. Maybe I love her so much because her season is so short. A cool year-year, their glorious display will end as soon as the hot weather arrives.

The rich Welch’s Grape Jelly color of these paper-thin petals that adorned the table where my book group would meet for dinner and discussion that night was enjoyed as much as the wine and asparagus tart.

Flowers fascinate and inspire us. And any gardener will tell you that flower color is possibly the biggest influence on which flowers they grow. Hot pinks, sunny golds and oranges, deep purples and blues or whites and cool pastels; we all have our preferences.

Yet delighting gardeners with their colors has never been the reason for a flower. Flower color is a matter of evolutionary survival. At least 85% of the 300,000 species of flowering plants depend on insects, birds or bats to reproduce. Many of these pollinators search for flowers in part by recognizing their colors.

It’s all part of the plan. Unlike animals, plants cannot move from place to place to reproduce. Over millions of years, angiosperms adapted to survive by producing flowers with colors and scents to attract the specific pollinators they needed. Think of flowers as landing lights for pollinators at the airport, and nectar and pollen as a reward for flying in for a closer look.

Beetle-pollinated flowers are typically dull in color but have a strong odor.

Bee-pollinated flowers are usually blue or yellow. They often have distinctive patterns that bees can recognize. These include “honey guides,” special marks that indicate the location of nectar, and other distinctive marks normally invisible to the human eye.

Flowers pollinated by moths and butterflies often have a long corolla tube.

Bird-pollinated flowers produce copious amounts of nectar and are often red and odorless due to poorly developed sense of smell in birds. This explains why the nectar portals on hummingbird feeders are always red.

Flowers pollinated by bats produce copious amounts of nectar and have dull colors and strong odors.

Wind-pollinated flowers do not produce nectar, are dull in color, and relatively odorless.

Genes in a plant’s DNA direct cells to produce colorful pigments. Red-leaved flowers have a pigment that absorbs all colors of the spectrum except red. When you look at a red rose, it reflects red light, making it appear red.

The color of a flower is usually at its most intense when the bloom is fresh and the pollen has time to shed. Pigment molecules have a short lifespan and begin to break down after fertilization. Every gardener has observed how flower color fades as the flower ages. The color change sends a message to pollinators that their services are no longer needed as the flower’s mission has been accomplished.

The pigments most responsible for flower color are the flavonoids, from which anthocyanins and anthoxanthins are derived. Flower colors ranging from indigo to red, such as blue delphinium and red geranium, are formed from anthocyanins. Yellow and some white flowers get their color from anthoxanthins.

Flavonoids are not only found in floral tissues. These pigments contribute to the color changes we look forward to in fall. Chlorophyll, the pigment responsible for the green color of leaves, is dominant and masks the colors of other pigments that may be present in the leaf during the growing season. As the night lengthens, chlorophyll production slows and then stops. The carotenoids and anthocyanins in the leaf are then unmasked and allowed to show their colors.

The carotenoids are pigments that create the rich, vibrant yellows and oranges of sunflowers and California poppies.

Other floral pigments include tannins that produce browns and blacks, betalains, and chlorophyll. Betalains are found in a limited number of plant families, mainly cacti and related species, and produce a range of colors. Chlorophyll, the ubiquitous green pigment in plant foliage, can also turn a flower green.

Floral colors are among nature’s most saturated colors, captivating everyone who walks by. Insects, birds, bats or gardeners, we are all fascinated.

Leave a Comment