Reading time: 2:30min | From Goethe’s wallpaper to underground stations of the 70s — Lindgrün.
Linden green is a traditional German colour that has gone unfashionable but still leads a life as a shrinking violet in DIY stores. Linden green is rather boring at first sight, a somewhat desaturated, pastel green, which has a noticeable tendency towards a warm yellow and therefore radiates friendly warmth of insignificant power. Why does the linden tree play a prominent role in plant-based colour names and the oak, for example, does not?
The cultural role of the linden tree is interesting in this context. In contrast to the oak as a German national landmark and the beech as the broadleaf tree par excellence, the linden tree has no notable economic significance. Its wood is not particularly good firewood, nor is it suitable for furniture, floors or building constructions. The linden tree was superfluous if it were not for the bees. With its millions of blossoms, which bloom green-yellow and therefore are hardly noticeable as flowers, it is an excellent bee pasture. The linden blossom honey is a famous honey classic. This characteristic and its romantic appearance with its hanging branches and twigs have made it the number one park tree. From there the linden tree’s way was not far to become a colour name, especially since its green looks remarkably warm when it blooms in summer.
The complete lack of excitement, the distinctly calming effect of the linden green made it THE psychological calming colour of the 70s when it became fashionable to give subways and other public spaces a calming effect on people through colour design. With beige and strongly muted orange, linden green shaped an entire era.
Today, the linden tree is infamously back in the limelight because in times of insect extinction hundreds of dead bumblebees stage it as an insect killer under the lime trees in summer. In July, when the linden trees are in full bloom, they are the bumblebees last bastion of food because the cities’ other plants can hardly feed the bee colonies anymore. In the end, the bumblebees, which unlike bees are unable to build up sugar reserves, are too weak and die of hunger under their last bastion of food, the linden trees.
It is unlikely that this story will bring the colour linden green back into focus, where it stood in Goethe’s time when green wallpaper was trendy. Goethe wrote in his book Theory of Colours in the year 1810: Our eye finds real satisfaction in it. When both mother colours are balanced in the mixture in such a way that neither is noticeable in front of the other, the eye and the mind rests on this mixture as on a simple one. One does not want to go further, and one cannot go any further. That is why the green colour of the wallpaper is usually chosen for rooms in which you are always in.
When linden green returned big, it would come back with the more fancy name lime green (which already is more known than the term linden green) and thus shifts the focus from the linden (or lime) tree to the more exotic lime fruit. The lime’s green is also warm but much more saturated and tells an entirely different meta-story of cocktails and party.