A low growing shrub, Lavandula and species with mauve, pink or blue-ish flowers harvested for the perfume and moth proofing properties. Universally adored for the en masse colourful fields of lavender ready for harvest, it is closely associated with sunflowers, both on the ground and as complementary colours.
Lavender as a plant is of course stunning, in the light in picture book fashion – acres of it in neat rows under blue skies and white clouds, a few olive trees dotted around and between stone walls or green hedgerows. And so it represents a dream- of long summer days and time off.
BUT, and it’s quite a big one – have you ever seen it work really well- as we imagine it should – inside the house ? Or a good wall colour ? I haven’t.
Lavender per se is a tricky colour to use in furnishings, or in wall paints – for a start it’s extremely difficult to pin down, perhaps because by trying to find ‘lavender’ we are trying to re-create the plant. To be alive it needs the light and the nuance we associate with, and see, when we look at the plant. When it does work it’s generally in small quantities and because it has been cleverly woven with darker and lighter tones or itself, or in a joyful and fun gingham check with white, or when its’s used to represent a plant such as wisteria, or lavender or violets, so that the tones and complementary colours are with it- and even then it needs to be extremely well drawn, or photographed. Somehow it’s not like interpreting the pink on a rose, it’s much more complex. And it just doesn’t – or very rarely and then only in highly skilled hands – work as plain colour.
When it does work is as a cast, an overlay, a small touch in a print that is barely visible, but makes all the difference. Some of then most successful chintzes of all time have a tiny viola or violet dropped in, or violet washed in or dropped into the flowers, or a fine line amongst the greenery. Because lavender -violet – is the colour of shadow. And of fading light. Lavender is often the catalyst that makes other colours sing. Look at any great painting.
The light cast at the end of the evening suffuses all landscape with a misty, ethereal lavender hue. We all love to watch a sunset- for the orange glow, but maybe as much for the effect it has on the surrounding environment. We holiday close to a beach every year, right at the end of summer, and in the early evening, every day, we join other visitors with a beer or coffee, often wrapped in warm coats, to watch the sun set over the sea. I never tire of watching the colours change as the cast of lavender, or violet – pink and blue – wash over the sand, the rocks, the fishing boats and the sea itself.
I guess they are what some call the shadow colours, but in fact it is by adding lavender – or in paint terms violet – to any other colour it is softened and made more palatable, easier to live with. More earthy.