Pantone, the international color authority, has announced their official Color of the Year for 2012: Tangerine Tango.
Goofy name, but awesome color! It's like a natural tangerine fruit got a sunburn, and then went dancing so his cheeks got red and sweaty and he had that free-wheelin' happy glow. And I must say, for the record, that I predicted the 2012 Color of the Year would be a lavender, but my Domestic Partner was spot-on when he predicted "a mesa orange". He's obviously a genius.
I did a quick brainstorm of plants that are in the color range of Tangerine Tango. From left to right, we've got an actual tangerine (not quite tangoed), Chinese Lantern, Ranunculus, Hubbard squash, Tulip, and fall in New England.
"What about Amaryllis?", you ask. Well here's where the universe gets awesome: I was already planning to write about Amaryllis today and then the universe chooses this color of the year and validates my place in the world.
Amaryllis flowers are one of those things that people often confuse, kinda like the difference between macarons and macaroons. This, my friends, is not a true Amaryllis:
The Hippeastrum is a houseplant bulb that blooms 2-4 big flowers in the winter, and it's one of those potted plants you can always find at the grocery store (where it is usually incorrectly labeled Amaryllis). I received one as a gift from my former roommate, and I don't care what it's called-- it's gorgeous.
A true Amaryllis grows wild in South Africa and is rarely seen in cultivation. It's sometimes called Naked Ladies because the flowers blooms before the foliage (love that name). It looks like this growing in the wild:
I don't think it's a big deal to refer to the Hippeastrum houseplant as an Amaryllis, and anyone who is seriously cultivating flowers would not make that mistake so it doesn't do any harm. The thing I want to talk to you about is cut Amaryllis flowers.
I read this beautiful post on Design Sponge about Amaryllis floral arrangements, and you can see how perfectly they match with the Tangerine Tango theme. A few years ago I would've simply thought this was a pretty bunch of flowers, but now that I've been on this gardening adventure, all I can see in those arrangements is a waste of energy. I've grown Hippeastrum "Amaryllis", and it is a lot of time and effort to get just a few flowers each year. I can't imagine cutting the flower for one-time use in a vase during your dinner party. If you're growing a rose bush, you can get 40 flowers a year no problem. But these few Amaryllis flowers are all you'll get from an Amaryllis plant, and then you have to wait until next year to enjoy them again.
I also think about the farmer who grew those flowers. He waited a year for one bulb to bloom, and then cut it down, shipped it across the country, and sold it to the corner store. The corner store sells a cut Amaryllis for $2. The farmer earns 20 cents for a year's worth of work. And the store may even need to dispose of some flowers if they don't sell before they start drooping. So sad!
Ok, obviously I don't know the exact retail cycle of every Amaryllis flower being sold at every corner store, but that's what flashed through my head after seeing the flower arrangement (which is amazingly beautiful, yes I know, I just can't help myself). This is one of the reasons I embarked on this journey to begin with: to have more of an emotional connection to food and plants. Having first-hand experience of how much time, care, and energy (both human and resources) goes into growing something has made me waste less and be more thoughtful about my general consumption. I believe that if everyone had even just a little bit of gardening experience, we would be wasting much less food (and Amaryllis!) in this country.
I leave you with a Tangerine Tango floral pattern from Amy Butler, one of my textile design favorites.