Sunday, Jun. 19, 2011
Dear Diary:

In theory a treaty had been negotiated and thus The Great Pergola Wars of 2011 were narrowly averted.

In theory.

I turned 60 the end of May and back at the beginning of the month the spousal unit asked me what I wanted to mark such a watershed of a birthday. I said I wanted him to build me a pergola for my wisteria plant.

He pointed out that he had already promised me a pergola for the plant. I replied that I had a long wish list of what I wanted in a pergola, that I wanted something far more elaborate than he probably envisioned. I also wanted to be able to pick the colour without negotiating it with him.

There was a pause at that point in the treaty negotiations. My taste in colour tends to run towards the Pee Wee's Playhouse spectrum of colours. I love rich, deeply saturated colours, probably because I am a child of the 1950's. The spousal unit tends to favour, uh, timid uh wimpy oh, wait, I have it. He likes tasteful colours.

The spousal unit swallowed hard. He said I could tell him what I wanted in the pergola and he would work out all the design/building challenges. He also said I could pick the colour, but he asked to be kept in the colour loop. I felt I had a treaty.

Off I went to Google images. I quickly realized that what I wanted was something with a decidedly Victorian flavour. I want a curved top. I want lots and lots of details, with curved braces, mouldings, and column fluting. I want it to feel substantial, with 6 x 6 framing.

Over a month later and we are still at the drawing board stage, still ironing out the aesthetic and technical challenges of this project. That's fine. I want to get it right.

This week one of the big box stores put its stain on sale, dropping $10 a gallon off its premium stain. We need stain for some outbuildings, so I figured we could kill two birds with one stone—buy the outbuilding stain as well as the pergola stain. If we went out to the store together, he would be in the colour loop. A win-win, right?

The fabulous thing about big box stores is that they have oh, about two million colour choices. I knew that I wanted a blue because I wanted the pergola to crackle in the garden, to be of visual interest both winter and summer. I also knew that I wanted an electric blue. The spousal unit blanched when the words "electric blue" left my lips.

Remember what I said about Pee Wee's Playhouse? Well, the first blue that I loved was a truly neon turquoise blue. When I held the sample card out to the spousal unit I could see he was, um, upset. Clearly this was a colour that got on his last nerve. A promise had been made, though. The pergola colour was to be my choice.

He pulled another card and tentatively proffered it. On it were a series of very tasteful blues in the slate blue range.

"That's too muddy looking for me," I said. "I want pop."

He sighed.

Quietly.

Under his breath.

I decided to drift out of the greenish range of blue because clearly anything remotely like turquoise was going to induce a seizure in the spousal unit. Technically, it was supposed to be my colour choice, but, well, as much as I hate to admit it, the spousal unit's influence has kept me from making some fairly garish colour choices.

I headed to the more purple range of blues. That was a colour that would work in the garden since most flowers that are termed blue are actually some sort of variation of purple. The spousal unit is not a fan of the purple, but to my surprise he didn't balk. It may be that the turquoise I first chose burned his retinas enough that the second range of blues looked acceptable.

I narrowed it down to two cards. One was a darker, one lighter, both very strong colours.

The first rule of paint selection is that you never, ever chose a colour under store lighting. So we took the two big sample cards out to the big box store's garden center and set them in amongst the plants. I cannot begin to tell you how much that amused the garden centre employees.

The spousal unit liked the darker card. I liked the lighter card, which had looked more purple than blue under store light. Natural light changed it in the most unexpected way. It turned into what I call a Monet blue, especially nestled in green foliage. I realized I was looking at one of those colours that would morph constantly during the day, depending on light conditions.

My heart was set. This was the colour for me.

Did I mention that it took us nearly an hour of hemming and hawing over swaths of blue paint sample cards to get to this point? Oh, but it did.

The spousal unit was not sold on the lighter colour. It was too, um, vibrant for his taste. There was another half an hour of back and forth. Then he graciously capitulated, although I know that every fibre of his being deeply, deeply regretted making me the promise that I could choose the pergola colour.

I decided to throw him a bone in return. I told him when I got home I would stain a temporary trellis we'd put up for the wisteria with my electric blue. If he could live with the colour in the landscape, it was mine. If not, then I'd go for the darker colour. After all, I like it, too. Just not as much.

Deal. We had a deal. It probably took us over two hours. I think we spent less time deciding on a name for our daughter than we did picking a blue for my pergola.

Back to the paint counter I went. I had the woman mix up two gallons of the different colours we needed for the outbuilding and one gallon of my electric blue. She opened each of the cans for me to vet that I'd received the colour I wanted. The electric blue opened last.

Her eyes got wide. Under store light it looked flat out weird and a kind of disgusting off purple. It was clear from her face that she thought I'd picked one icky colour. I decided to trust that she got the proportions right. I thanked her profusely and headed off to the check out.

When we got home I grabbed a brush, poured some of the stain into a can and headed off to the temporary trellis.

"I can't look," said the spousal unit. I laughed.

I think we spent less time picking out a name for our daughter.
From the first brush stroke I knew that I'd gotten the colour I wanted, the sort of electric blue that shoots through Impressionist paintings and makes their garden landscapes so seductive. The spousal unit was pretty shocked by it, but said he could put up with it if I liked it.

We've lived with the colour 24 hours now and the spousal unit says he has grown to really like it. In the morning when light tends to blue shades, it is a mauve blue. In mid-day is it a kind of electric powder blue. In evening, when light tends to more golden shades it somehow darkens. The picture was taken at noon.

Colour accomplished. Now, if we can just sort out a pergola design ….



--Marn

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