One of the best things about my school was the summer uniform. We were allowed to wear any dress of our choosing, as long as it was purple. Not a first choice color perhaps, but it was an invitation to self-expression in Putney, southwest London.

Sometimes girls were banned from wearing a perfectly good dress which happened to be puce. Or mauve, violet, or chartreuse. In the daily debate the purple police did manage at least to open our eyes to the possibilities of color. A frock which seemed purple(ish) at home became suddenly very blue when lined up with the other summer dresses in assembly.

Photographs by Kendra Wilson, for Gardenista.

Above: The last word in purple chic, the patrician droops of cerinthe major Purpurascens. If only we could buy dresses like this at John Lewis school uniform department. A four-inch pot of Cerinthe major Purpurascens is $4.95 from Annie's Annuals.

Above: Cornflower becomes very blue lined up against purple salvia. A packet of 100 Blue Boy Cornflower seeds is $3.95 from Burpee.

Above: My roomy cotton pinafore from Laura Ashley (late 70s) was a madras check, the color of poppy 'Patty's Plum.' A bareroot Oriental Poppy 'Patty's Plum' is $6.75, available seasonally, from Hallson Gardens.

Above: The madras mixed 'Patty's Plum' with geranium Mrs Kendall Clarke. It may have raised an eyebrow, but from a distance the effect of the two colors together was purple enough, and I got away with it. A four-inch pot of Geranium Mrs. Kendall Clarke is $8.95, available seasonally, from Annie's Annuals.

Above: Is lavender purple? At my school only some of the teachers thought so.

Above: With yellow, purple is the dominant color of spring so it's best to put aside any personal prejudices. Classic spring plants in classic purple: iris and allium.

Above: Campanula, the perfect purple in summer. A four-inch pot of Campanula is $6.95 from Annie's Annuals.

Above: Delphinium, deeper purple still, goes well with black accessories. Lives up to school motto "fortiter et recte" (loose translation: strong and upright).

Above: Purple lupines with dubious accents of plum.

Above: Allium christophii. Very pretty but most unsuitable. Allium christophii bulbs are available from Brent and Becky's Bulbs 25 for $18.25.

N.B.: Looking for help planning a garden? For 256 photos of Flowers, see our Gallery of rooms and spaces.



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