Rhapsody in blue
PUBLISHED: 16:12 08 July 2009 | UPDATED: 17:13 16 August 2010
ENTHUSIASTS often say how difficult it can be to find the colour blue to use in a planting scheme in the garden border, patio, greenhouse and so on. However, in Tom the Plant Nut s experience I have found that this ultraviolet, bee-attractive bamboozlin
ENTHUSIASTS often say how difficult it can be to find the colour blue to use in a planting scheme in the garden border, patio, greenhouse and so on. However, in Tom the "Plant Nut's" experience I have found that this ultraviolet, bee-attractive bamboozling colour is surprisingly easy to find in a range of cracking flowers.
The most obvious candidate is the cottage garden annual, Nigella damascena (Love-in-the-mist), originally from North Africa, with its wispy yet airy, feathery foliage. Nigella is so easy to grow. Simply scatter seed on the open, disturbed ground in late winter.
Then how about the borage family, with two caressing candidates in the form of Anchusa azurea "Dropmore" from Spain, with its bristly, three-foot-plus tall stems spurting out rich deep blue flowers that the bees and hoverflies alike simply adore. It's a superb herbaceous perennial for the front half of the plant-filled border that to my horticultural horror is barely used by budding gardeners. I grew this plant from Chiltern Seeds and it's not difficult to get hold of.
Another starker exotic blue candidate, also from the borage family, is the famous biennial Echium pininana. In its native habitat in the wilds of La Palma in the Canary Islands it's an extremely rare gigantic stunner which throws up a towering 15ft plus flower spike. In cultivation, especially in the milder parts of London and the south west, the flower spike can top 20ft - bees love it. In fact, it's a 25-storey honey hotel.
But if you're looking for a less ravaging large blue flowered plant, how about the dinky Sisyrinchium angustifolium from the south east United States, with its grass-like foliage and sweet subtly glowingly pale blue flowers. It's a delicious plant for the hot rockery.
For a blue blaster, look no further than Baptisia australis, also from North America - with its delicate retina-blasting flowers. Baptisia australis, also known as "False Indigo", looks simply spectacular as a mass planting.
But how can I leave my lovely continent of Australia out. I give you Orthrosanthus laxus, from Southern Australia, known commonly as "The Morning Flag Iris" - a larger version of the Sisyrinchium angustifolium - with a clumping habit and a stonking pastime for promiscuous self-seeding. A real winner!
I've left the best until last in the form of the frost-tender "Blue Flowered Milkweed" from Brazil, with the endearing name of Tweedia caerulea (caerulea meaning blue in Latin). The blue metallic colour the flowers exhibit could only be painted by the guy upstairs. My photograph doesn't do it justice. I bought this rare plant from Burncoose Nurseries in Cornwall.