Rose 'Rhapsody in Blue'

A Velvet Touch

NB: A note for WordPress Reader users – you need to click on the title of the post again to see the full photograph. (Otherwise you see just a tiny section!)

Some flowers have a very velvety look to their petals. The two plants in this post (rose ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ and clematis ‘Dark Eyes’) have especially dark and velvety flowers. But, having investigated, I can tell you that the flowers look a lot more like velvet than they actually feel. (They are, though, very soft to the touch.)

There was actually a study into the reasons for the velvety appearance of some petals. As I understand it, it’s all down to the dark colour of the flower, the shape of the cells within the petal and a low angle of light. (If you want to read all about it, you can find the report here.)

The feel of a petal or leaf is something that I tend not to think about very much when I’m planning what to plant. But there’s no doubt that textures add a stimulating element to a garden. The soft hairs on the flowers and leaves of pulsatilla (which you can see in an earlier blog post) are a great example of texture adding interest. While some plants are hairy, other plants are smooth – like the star-shaped flowers of Allium christophii, which have an almost metallic-looking sheen.

There’s lots of choice amongst the flowers that have a velvety lustre to their petals. The most obvious may be the classic red rose. Then, for instance, there are deep blue delphiniums, dark-flowered pelargoniums and purple, crimson or almost black petunias. Or, in mid and late summer, there are the rich, dark purples and reds of dahlias and the bright orange of tithonia (Mexican sunflower), which you can see here. All of them contribute something extra to the garden. They give that feeling of luxury, a suggestion of the opulence of rich fabrics, and the engagement of the sometimes-neglected sense of touch.

Dark red clematis
Clematis ‘Dark Eyes’

19 thoughts on “A Velvet Touch

    1. It’s the divergence between what my eyes were telling me and what touch told me that intrigued me. The petals were soft but there was no feeling of a velvet pile that you would get if you touched the fabric. So the eyes are tricked by the way the petals reflect light. Because we don’t normally go around a garden touching flowers, the illusion usually survives. πŸ™‚

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  1. Ha! Speak for yourself! I’m a ‘toucher’ by nature, and I’ve had to teach myself not to touch without knowing what I’m looking at. A few encounters with nettles and stinging caterpillars taught me that! I do love the fuzziness or deep-pile look of some flowers, and I especially enjoy what a macro lens can reveal of those details. The extra information you included here is especially interesting.

    I’m intrigued that the flowers you mentioned aren’t ones I’d think of as velvety. On the other hand, I know we have at least a couple of native flowers that are distinctly velvety. Now all I have to do is remember what they are!

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  2. The velvet look to these blooms is really pretty. I had never thought much about that concept but it may be why roses are so popular – you just want to touch them! Beautiful pix as usual Ann!

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    1. Thanks Syd! Sometimes flowers make me want to touch them because they look so velvety. I used to grow a morning glory called ‘Grandpa Otts’ and that’s the most velvety of flowers. (But a long time since I’ve grown it.)

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