Jul 23, 2015

The Summer Time Blues

I probable spend more time than most people thinking about color in the garden.  When I shop for plants, I notice what other people have in their cart.  I usually observe a riot of colors.  I wonder if all those flowers are going in the same bed.  Impulse buying is rampant in garden centers.  We all know that when you go shopping for groceries you should plan your menu before you go to avoid impulse buys.  Gardeners need to have a plan before shopping too.  In many ways, interior design and landscaping have much in common.  After all, good design is good design.  In your house you picked a style or theme along with a color palette.  You should do the same in your garden.  In the front garden, you might want bold colors that contrast with you house colors.  In the back yard you might want soft and cool colors for a relaxing escape.  
Think of a theme for your garden.  Do you want a formal garden or a whimsical garden? Perhaps you would like your garden to be a tropical paradise or Asian inspired.  Then there are wildlife gardens for birds, butterflies and bees. 
Early this spring I was standing next to my front flower bed trying to come up with a plan. I looked over to my blue bottle tree surrounded by blue hydrangeas.  It was then I decided to plant blue flowers in my front bed.  Now blue is not the usual color for a garden on the street.  Highway colors like red, orange and yellow are good choices to show up from the road.  But since this garden would be viewed from a sidewalk, I thought blue would work.
Blue flowers that thrive in our area are few, but I thought I would have fun hunting for them.  For the sake of argument, I will include purple in with blue.  After all purple is a rather new color. It appears that our ancestors did not distinguish purple from blue, so it was all blue.  That may explain why so many plants that have blue in their name look purple to us.  
Salvias, or sages as they are commonly called, come in many colors and there’s plenty of blue ones that will stand up to our hot summers.  Mexican Sage Salvia leucantha, Bog Sage Salvia uliginosa, Anise-scented sage Salvia guaranitica and Blue Sage Salvia farinacea  are just a few of the perennial sages that do well in our gardens. 
The Mexican Sage blooms in late summer and fall but has attractive grey green foliage during the summer.  Be careful with the bog sage.  This South American plant will overrun a flower bed.  There are many cultivars of Salvia guaranitica available such as 'Argentine Skies' with pale blue flowers, 'Black and Blue' almost black calyx and deep blue flowers, and 'Purple Splendor' with purple flowers. ‘Mystic Spires’ is a new hybrid of Salvia longispicata x farinacea that blooms heavily all summer till frost.   All of these Salvias are perennials, need full sun and all except the bog sage need well drained soil.

Another good flower that comes in many shades of blue is the Wishbone Flower or Torenia. This low growing annual is a native of Vietnam and no stranger to heat and humidity. It will thrive in sun and part shade.  Torenia is also a good plant for baskets and window boxes and will creep nicely over the edges.

Evolvulus glomeratus whose common name is Blue Daze is a wonderful short perennial with many sky blue flowers. The flowers are about the size of a nickel and last for only one day, opening in the morning and closing by afternoon.  This neat compact plant is perfect in the front border and in formal gardens.  It rarely gets over 6 inches high and about 1 foot in diameter.  Blue Daze grows best in well-drained soil and full sun but will take a little shade in the afternoon.  I have lost this Brazilian native during cold wet winters but it is worth replanting in the spring.

Liriope or border grass is a common plant in our gardens but is often over looked as a flowering plant. In fact this plant is not a grass but a member of the lily family and some folks call it Lilytuft.  In July liriope has spikes of pale blue flowers.  I think it does best in shade and part shade with average garden soil.

I planted a blue Plumbago but I afraid it will not get enough sun to bloom well. This South African plant thrives in the heat, needs full sun and good drainage.  Dead heading the flowers and occasional fertilizing will keep it  blooming till frost.

Although it is July there is still plenty of time to add blue flowers to the garden.  After all, we usually don’t get a killing frost till after Thanksgiving. 

Other blue flowering plants that I have found: Blue Passion Flower, Stokes Aster, Althea, Hydrangea, Spiderwort, Vitex, Butterfly Bush, Blue Porterweed, Liatris, Lobelia, Iris, Blue Mistflower, Borage and Cardoon. When winter comes, I will search for blue pansies and violas to add to my blue garden. Looks like I am going to have the blues for a while.
African Basil

Iris Versicolor
Blue Daze

blue salvia



lemon balm

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