Gardens are not of much interest if you are colour blind since most flowers are difficult to distinguish from their leaves, berries and fruit cannot be spotted easily and it is difficult to tell sometimes whether a plant is dead or alive. Donald McIntyre recounts in his book ‘Colour Blindness: Causes and Effects’, an embarrassing incident for both him and the checkout operator at his local garden centre on the occasion that he tried to buy a rosemary plant which was actually dead.
Flowers and berries generally need to be identified by shape rather than colour and although picking strawberries is possible it can be a long, slow process. Many colour blind people find it very difficult to know which fruits are ripe unless there is a strong contrast between the ripe and unripe colour of the fruit.
G (aged 10) recounts a trip to the local Pick Your Own farm with her younger, colour blind, brother….
Last Summer we had some visitors from Barbados who came to stay and my mum and dad wanted to take them to do typical English things with us. We live near Oxford and we took them punting one day, then the next afternoon we took them strawberry picking. We went to the strawberry fields and quite soon after we got there my brother got told off. Mum thought he was messing about because he kept putting green strawberries into the basket. Mum told him not to waste the green strawberries. So my brother and the boy from the other family went off to the other side of the field and everyone else carried on picking. When we had collected enough strawberries and were ready to go and get a drink dad called the boys back. My brother was carrying a basket full of beautiful ripe red strawberries and mum was really pleased. She was really nice to the boys, praising them for doing such a good job but I was really angry because I saw my brother go over to a pile of baskets full of ready-picked strawberries and pinch one. I had been trying really hard to pick some nice strawberries but mine weren’t as nice and I didn’t get praised like the boys did. When we got home I told mum where the boys had got their strawberries from and she told them off because someone had spent a long time filling up the basket and they had taken it without asking.
When this happened we didn’t know my brother was colour blind, but now mum says he probably did it because he was using one of his coping strategies to try and hide his colour blindness from other people. He says he did it because he was embarrassed in front of the visitors and he didn’t want the other boy to know that he couldn’t see the ripe strawberries. The unripe strawberries stood out to him because they appeared to be lighter than the leaves but the ripe strawberries were very difficult for him to see.