Purple Wellies

One woman's musings of plant lust for intoxicating blooms

The perception of colour

The perception of colour in the garden can vary dependent on the time of day or season. Factors such as age can also have a bearing. Tastes in colour may change as we get older and many people over 70 may experience colour vision abnormalities. It’s very subjective. A flower may appear to us as one colour, but because our eyes can’t detect ultraviolet light, they may look very different to pollinators and wildlife. So, what are the best colours to include in your planting to encourage wildlife into the garden?

Bees can detect a broad range of colours, although they will have less differentiation. They are most attracted to vibrant shades that stand out to them – ultra-violet, blue, green and yellow. They can’t see red, orange or white. White flowers tend to be pollinated by beetles, bats, flies and moths – Jasminum officinale being one example. White flowers also are the last to recede at night, so if you regularly use your garden in the evenings, then don’t necessarily exclude white flowers – a few dotted through will act as highlights and keep the pollinators happy.

Beetles have poor eyesight and are clumsy fliers. They are attracted to large, pale flowers like Magnolias. Wasps can see most colours from yellow to ultra-violet, but red doesn’t feature in their colour spectrum. If you don’t like bees and wasps buzzing around you when you are sat in the garden, then introduce some red plants to your seating area. This will then draw in butterflies instead, which are enamored by red, orange, purple, pink, yellow and white, but dislike blue and green.

Birds see ultra-violet colours along with blue, green and red. When selecting plants with berries, opt for those with black or red fruit – these are usually the fruit to disappear first as they are top of the menu. They will eventually eat their way through other colour berries – orange, yellow, purple, pink and white. Different species of birds are drawn to different colours – maybe they have evolved this way so that there is plenty of food to go around. Thrushes and blackbirds enjoy the bright red berries of Berberis. Finches like red and orange, tits are drawn to yellow; blue are a favourite of jays and swifts; and robins love red. Redwings, bullfinches and blackbirds all like the black berries of Ivy.

Ultimately, to encourage a good range of wildlife in to the garden, it is best to diversify your colour palette just like the range of plants you are growing. Offering a selection of flowers in different colours throughout the year with other plants that produce berries in the autumn will keep the eco system happy.

Posted: 03/11/2023 14:17:10 by Pamela Barden