Red all over

1 09 2008

This is a Hibiscus flower (also known as rose mallow or swamp mallow), but I’m not sure which hybrid it is. It could be Hibiscus x ‘Pinot Noir’ or Hibiscus x ‘Lord Baltimore.’ No matter what the lineage, it was a beautiful flower in bloom (among countless others) at Green Spring Gardens yesterday.

Most hibiscus are hardy and do well in zones 4-8. Take a look at the gorgeous red hibiscus variations available at Hidden Valley Hibiscus. Sigh…if I only had the room (and the money), I’d plant one of each.

Speaking of the color red, I just finished reading Victoria Finlay’s book, Color: A Natural History of the Palette. It is a riveting book about the origin of natural colors, and I was particularly fascinated (and a bit taken aback) by the origin of one of the reddest dyes in the natural world—carmine red (or cochineal or crimson). To quote the back cover, “Since ancient times, carmine red—still found in lipsticks and Cherry Coke today—has come from the blood of insects.” I offer my condolences to all the red-lipstick-wearing, Cherry Coke lovers out there. You’ll just have to read the book yourself to find out what I mean.

Here’s a great overview of the book on the Random House website, as well as Mo Wu’s interview with the author, and excerpts from the book (including the origin of mascara!).

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From Booklist
Journalist Finlay travels the world in search of ancient sources of natural colors, recounting along the way the surprising chemical processes by which everything from stones to insects to mummies have been transformed into precious pigments for paint, dyes, and varnish. In pursuit of art’s first color, ochre, Finlay goes to Australia, offering, as she does in each location, an agile and entertaining then-and-now look at a place, a people, and a color and its uses and acquired meaning. Explication of red made from cochineal beetles inspires a compelling tale that stretches from Central America to Scotland, and wry humor abounds in her search for a yellow allegedly once made in India from the urine of mango-leaf-eating cows and coverage of sundry poisonous pigments. Her quest for blue brought Finlay to Afghanistan in 2000, where she was the first woman ever to tour a 7,000-year-old lapis lazuli mine, and one of the last Westerners to see the giant Buddhas of Bamiyan. Curious social mores, serendipitous science, and lots of skulduggery are all part of the rich spectrum Finlay so cheerfully illuminates. Donna Seaman Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved.

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Despite the fact that most of my (costume) jewelry is from Sam Moon, Kohl’s, or various craft shows, I’ll still add another of this gifted writer’s books, Jewels: A Secret History, to my reading list. If I can’t spring for the jewels, I can at least spring for a book about them! Truth be told, I’d rather have a new camera lens than jewels, anyway. Tell us something we don’t already know, Cindy.

Photos © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


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