The A-Peal of Orange!

When I think of the colour orange, I see the cliffs at Praia da Falésia, long hot summer sunsets and trees heavy with juicy oranges. Death row prisoners, life jackets and Halloween also creep into my mind, but those thoughts are washed away by visions of citrus groves and fruit sorbets! 

Before the 15th century, orange didn’t exist in Europe; the colour was clumsily referred to as “yellow-red”. Portuguese merchants brought the first oranges to Europe from Asia in the early 16th century, along with the Sanskrit word for orange tree, naranga – which became naranja in Spanish and laranja in Portuguese. The English dropped the “n” and the word orange was born.

Some cultures regard orange as a sacred colour because it balances red’s power and yellow’s perfection. Buddhists connect orange to the highest state of illumination and in Confucianism, the ancient Chinese philosophy and belief system, orange is the colour of transformation. 

When it comes to interiors, orange is inviting, fun and uplifting. Depending on the tone, it can add a contemporary edge, a touch of spice or a cosy mood to your living space. Orange is warming in darker months and zesty in summer. It’s a colour that adapts to the seasons and looks perfectly at home in Portugal, with all its orange sandstone cliffs.


Portugal is renowned for its oranges and many countries have used their version of the word Portugal to name their orange fruit. In Romania it’s Portocálâ and in Greece Portukáli; in Arabic and Persian languages the word ‘Portugal’ literally means ‘orange’.

Orange is an energetic colour, so it’s the natural choice for social environments. It can really help to create a welcoming vibe in high-traffic areas like kitchens and living rooms. Orange is also good for outside spaces, as it pairs beautifully with greens and blues and looks amazing in bright sunlight. 


Linen Etc in Lagos have some blue and orange cushions in bold botanical prints that have summer evenings written all over them. They would look great with the tangerine jute rug I’ve been eyeing up on Etsy. Orange also stimulates the appetite, so if you love having people around the kitchen table, orange will keep them talking and eating for a long time. If you’re a bit anti-social or like to go to bed early, I wouldn’t paint your dining room orange!


Silves is known as the orange capital of Portugal because of the citrus groves that cover the region’s entire landscape. It’s also the leading producer of Newhall oranges, a variety with a smooth, thin skin and an intense orange colour. Next time you’re entertaining, treat your guests to Newhall Orange Gin, which is made with five botanicals, including Newhall orange peel, juniper and mint. It smells divine and doesn’t even need tonic. I like it with sparkling water, and slices of orange and lemon. You could go mad and serve it with bolo de laranja, the traditional Portuguese orange cake. My neighbour makes a really good one with olive oil and almonds, and this summer, we’ve spent many an evening stuffing our faces and gossiping over a few too many orange gins.


I found a fantastic garden centre while sitting in traffic on the N125 last week. This is not the first time I have mentioned crawling along that road … it’s a regular occurrence due to my middle-aged fear of motorways. It’s ridiculous, I used to drive all over the world when I worked in TV documentaries and now I’m scared of the little A22 (a totally irrational fear I know; the N125 is much more dangerous than the motorway, as my husband points out every time I shudder at the suggestion of taking the A22).


My avoidance is also fuelled by a love of shopping, of course. Motorway driving is like being on a conveyor belt, you can’t get off when you see something you fancy.  You can’t stop at Olaria Pequena, a pottery in Porches with a stunning blue facade. And you would never notice Bali Home Decor, a wee gem full of hand-carved Balinese furniture, if you weren’t doing 12 kilometres an hour behind a tractor on a very boring stretch of road near Alcantarilha.


I wasn’t looking for a garden centre when I pulled into Gigagarden Botânica in Guia, I just needed the loo. What I found was a garden lovers’ paradise – hundreds of indoor and outdoor plants, from the tiny to the towering, a huge range of garden furniture, ceramics, textiles and decorations. It makes Homebase look like a corner shop. A multi-sensory experience like London’s Kew Gardens, I could have spent the whole day there. I bought a beautiful Agave plant, a banana palm and an ornamental orange tree, and completely forgot about the original reason I’d gone in there. 

ORNAMENTAL ORANGE TREE Flora’s photo, available at Gigagarden Botânica, Guia

The orange tree is now sitting pretty on my terrace next to my orange hibiscus. It’s laden with small fruit which I have no intention of picking, I bought it purely for its looks. Apparently, the fruits are too bitter to eat anyway, and the best thing you can do is freeze the little oranges and use them as flavoured ice cubes … perfect in an orange gin and tonic!

Main photo: STEPS WITH ORANGE WALLS Flora’s own photo


Share this edition