Autumnal chromology

Autumnal chromology

Chromology: the psychology of colour. I’ve written about colour many times over the years, from blog posts as Mitenska to the old monthly Colour Collaborative. As an autumnophile I recognise that a large part of savouring this latter season is an appreciation of the richness of the colours. Although I don’t actually think that much about what each one signifies, or what it evokes, I do relish watching the leaves turn; that gradual wave of yellow, red, brown, purple breaking across the treetops and through the hedgerows.

I was watching The Beechgrove Garden at the weekend, and there was segment on autumn foliage. Apparently much is down to the lack of chlorophyll as trees and plants enter a dormant phase and the sunlight hours lessen; as the familiar greens fade, hidden colours are revealed, and there’s something very magical about that. It truly captures the imagination; all those brilliant, jewel-like hues hiding all year and waiting to make their entrance.

I’m also enchanted by words; you only need to read, for example, a guide to funghi to come across some truly delightful names. And my old Roget’s Thesaurus is perhaps one of the books I love to read the most. Just letting it fall open and then studying all those wonderfully descriptive terms… Even better, the edition I own was passed to me by my mum, and it was gifted to her by a writer. It’s almost 40 years old so there are some fascinatingly anachronistic words in there.

So this post is simply a long list, a selection of colour descriptors. Why be limited to ‘red’, ‘orange’ or ‘yellow’? There’s so much more poetry to be had.

Pink, cyclamen, rose, poppy, geranium, peony, cherry, ruby, garnet, coral, rust, lobster, flame; cochineal, carmine, dragon’s blood, cinnabar, vermilion; madder, crimson; corallin, paeonin, fuchsin, magenta, rouge; scarlet, vermeil, crimson, cardinal.

Bronze, coffee, chocolate, walnut, mahogany, amber, copper; burnt almond, brunette; bistre, ochre, sepia, sienna, umber; bay, roan, chestnut, sorrel; hazel, cinnamon, fawn, russet.

Gold, crocus, buttercup, primrose, saffron, mustard; topaz, honey; weld, luteolin, xanthin; flaxen, citrine.

Old gold; apricot, mandarin, tangerine, ginger, cadmium, henna, helianthin.

Heliotrope, violet, amethyst, mulberry, mauve; puce, plum, ianthine, hyacinthine…

Right now the west coast weather is doing what it does. The wind’s blowing, the rain’s falling and the skies are grey. Some trees are stripped all but bare whilst others have only just been touched by autumn, and their greens are very gradually turning. Berries are bright. The rosiest fly agarics, those storybook mushrooms, are now decaying back into the earth. There’s still much seasonal colour to be had, but I’m happy to stay indoors for now and to sit out the bluster. There are a few heads of sea-green hydrangea in a vase and a little bottle with two stems of fiery barberry on the mantel. A little orange pumpkin too, and purple figs in the fruit bowl. Colour therapy on a truly dreich day…