I’ve heard it said that if humans evacuated the planet, domestic dogs left to their own devices after generations of breeding would all start to look the same: small, brownish wolf-like creatures of about 35 pounds. They would revert back to their feral selves.

Left without natural sun and summer warmth, the many varieties of Coleus go feral in the winter. Fluorescent lighting and our coldish house (59° at night and 69° during the day) just doesn’t cut it as far as bringing out the color. They lose their uniqueness and personalities. They all start to look the same. Distinguishing markings, splotches and freckles disappear. Colors fade. Leaf shape becomes narrower. They become generic, and I can’t tell them apart.

One of the Coleus we brought out from winter storage was a weird bland color, which was actually a combination of red and green botanically painted in sort of a pointillistic way to create beige-pink. I looked at the tag, and couldn’t believe it had once been a bold gold color with a narrow magenta edging and russet splotching: Gold Giant (which I think is also called “Orange King” by other commercial growers) The photo on the left below shows the oddly anemic beige Gold Giant from 2012, with Orange King next to it. The photo on the right shows the very same plant, Gold Giant, the way it was last summer.

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