I was never one of those little girls who wore pink. Certainly not from head to foot, and possibly not ever. Yuck, etc. But when I was 10 I was seized with a violent liking for the sort of deep-fuchsia-pink that you nowadays see mostly on Barbie-trademarked products. It seemed at once both vaguely rebellious and punky, and a little bit footless-tights disco. Well, you know, it was 1979.
I rarely ever actually put clothes on in this eye-catching shade any more (not sure if that's a good or a bad thing) but it's still a staple colour of my garden at this time of year. Especially with the weather we've been having, which has produced lush foliage in a rich photosynthetic green to foil all that girly pink. And my, what a pink it is. In bright sunshine, white flowers fade into insignificance besides their bright fuchsia relatives. Tasteful blues look, well, a bit blue. Reds and oranges look too hot and fiery and heavy – it's still only June, for crying out loud. It's pink that we want, in buckets.
For me, one of the most permanently lovely pink-flowering plants is one of the most common – Valerian or Centranthus ruber (above). You'll see it dotted along the lanes in Cornwall this time of year, growing out of, well, anywhere it can get itself, frankly. In our London street it's growing from the top of a wall in the car park of the old-people's home. It has a stately way of doing it once it gets there, too, fanning out in tall raspberry-coloured stands, and reminding you that there are only another few weeks until the summer-holiday season. (You can buy it at jacksonsnurseries.co.uk, where a one-litre pot is priced £3.80.)
Next, there are the pelargoniums: the wickedest of these is the "Flower Fairy Berry", though "Sassa" and the Christopher-Kane-ish "Trend Neon" come close. However, these are all pretty gaudy; for a more tasteful bloom, try Sarah Raven's choice, "Ashby", bearing delicate (but still bright-pink) flowers on slim stems (one plant for £7.50 at sarahraven.com).
Some of the finest of the pinks, though, are rather more expensive to acquire: in particular the roses, with heavy perfume as well as great colour. But I have to say my favourite pink rose discovery of the summer is actually a rather pale one – the Alnwick rose. An extremely smart garden near me is entirely planted with this one variety, which has had absolutely perfect flowers on show for weeks now. Almost everybody making their way to Kew Gardens has had a sniff – and rightly so (£13.49 each delivered this autumn, davidaustinroses.com).
Get the look
For major pink presence all summer long, try a penstemon (inset left). If you feed and water them well, and give them enough sunshine, they'll brighten up the whole of 2011. One of the loveliest is "Threave Pink". £3.50 for a small plant, hardys-plants.co.uk
Another reliable and continuous bloomer is Gaura, with "Ruby Ruby" wonderful value in flower terms. A small plant will quickly get big with a bit of love. £3.50, hardys-plants.co.uk
For a real blast of the South of France, go for an oleander. And not in tasteful white. Burncoose has one with reddish-pink flowers £17, burncoose.co.uk
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