NOW FOR SOMETHING BLUE
Gardeners throughout history have always had a fascination for blue flowers. It is both the beauty of a pure blue flower as well as the emotive response we share with the colour. The climate in UK is quite variable and in Scotland we get our fair share of cloudy skies, so we get that feel good factor every time the sun shines giving us that bright blue sky and we can feel the warmth.
My garden is not large, and being a very keen gardener I grow a wide range of plants. When checking out all my blue flowered plants it struck me that the majority flowered in spring and early summer. This suggests that these blue flowers remind us that winter is past and sunny summer days are just ahead.
When planning new landscapes, or bedding schemes we go for bright red and yellows flowers to create drama and impact , but nothing beats blue to relax and calm us down.
As winter gives way to early spring and the first flowers appear the dominant colours are white with the snowdrops, then yellow with the aconites. Chionodoxa, the Glory of the Snows, and Anemone blanda lead the blue flowers out of winter, and then the Pulmonaria, a low growing herbaceous plant comes into flower. I always try to grow plants in association groups so a range of different plants can add their own bit to enhance the group. My Pulmonaria is planted amongst a drift of aconites alongside some early flowering yellow Doronicum. That way I am sure to have the blue pulmonaria flowering next to some yellow flowers, but depending on the season.
Once spring takes over and warmer days become normal, blue flowers get stronger in intensity. Tubs and hanging baskets will always have some deep blue Pansy Ullswater, and to show off dwarf red, pink and yellow tulips in flower beds, it is hard to beat Myosotis the Forget me nots, or the blue Polyanthus.
Tubs growing near doorways will have some deep blue scented hyacinths underplanted amongst the spring bedding plants.
This is also the time for my drift of bluebells growing under the apple trees to but on their display, but I always remove seed heads after flowering as they can take over the garden given half a chance.
Summer sees another range of blue flowers from the delphiniums, meconopsis and iris in the herbaceous border to the gentianas in the rock garden. Large outdoor tubs can be planted with the not so hardy agapanthus, and smaller tubs and baskets always have some blue scented petunias.
Annual borders can find spots for some drifts of cornflowers and Nigella, the Love in a Mist.
Plant breeders have always risen to the challenge of trying to create a blue flower from some plant that is not naturally blue. Roses and tulips have tested the breeders for years, but if the gene for blue colour does not exist in the species or genus they will have an uphill battle without resorting to genetic modification. Last year saw the first blue flowered phalaenopsis orchid appear in the garden centres, but then it emerged that the plant had been treated to some blue dye that would only last the one flowering season.
Another favourite plant prone to modification is the hydrangea being very sensitive to soil acidity.
The flowers will only remain blue with the right variety on an acid soil enhanced with some aluminium sulphate.
Plant of the week
Pernettya mucronata is a low growing evergreen shrub which produces an abundance of pink, white, red or mauve berries. These can last all winter as birds leave them alone till near the end of winter when lack of other berries and food drives them in desperation to eat a few Pernettya berries. The plants which are female benefit from a male to assist in pollination to produce berries. This shrub grows on most soils as long as it remains moist and is happy in the shade.