Garden Blue

Blue really stands out in a garden:  Chinese Moon Bridge at Les Quatre Vents in Quebec
Blue Corydalis

As a landscape designer, when I ask a client what colors they want in their garden, they invariably will say that blue is top of the list. So, I am always looking for good blue perennials and annuals to satisfy this urge. Blue is also the most popular color in the world so I understand where this is coming from.  Who doesn’t love blue? Lots of blue flowers populate garden catalogs, but some are not suited for my extreme hot/cold climate of the mid-Atlantic, though I can still covet these varieties. If you live in a more forgiving climate, like the Pacific Northwest, you are fortunate and can load up on many of these plants.

Blue Corydalis

There are a few named varieties of this beauty, notably ‘Blue Panda’,  ‘China Blue’ and ‘Blue Heron’. A shade loving perennial that looks like and is a relative of bleeding heart, the finely cut blue grey foliage topped with clusters of azure blue flowers, flowering in mid to late spring, Corydalis dies back in the summer and can flush back with more flowers in the autumn, but hates heat, so I can’t grow this beauty. Needing evenly moist soil, this great pick comes from China and is available from Plant Delights.

Masses of blue corydalis blooming in the UK
Stunning color
Blue Centaurea

Blue Centaurea or Perennial Bachelors Button

I can grow this one and love it. The cornflower-blue, fringed blossoms of this  easy to grow perennial attract butterflies like magnets in the garden. Centaurea blooms from early to midsummer and dies back in the late summer. Beautiful in cut flower bouquets, it will self seed prolifically.

 

Anchusa

Anchusa

Anchusa is another old-fashioned flower that I only see in the UK. I used to grow it years ago and can’t find it anymore at local nurseries, but after seeing it flower in England, I am going to try it again next year. A short-lived perennial that blooms in spring and hates humidity, I can still grow this little gem for spring color. I put this on my list for next year.

A great blue and white combo- Anchusa and Orlaya

 

 

Anchusa used at the Chelsea Flower Show

Balloon Flower

Balloon flower

Balloon Flower, Platycodon ‘Sentimental Blue’, is a sun-loving deer resistant trooper in my garden. Covered in puffy balloon shaped flowers that explode in color, lasting a long time in bloom. ‘Sentimental Blue’ is a dwarf variety topping out at 12″ tall and the easy to grow clump is literally covered with blooms in mid summer.

 

Virginia Bluebells

Heralding springtime bloom, I add to my Virginia Bluebell, Mertensia virginica,  population every year. Blooming in April with trusses of true blue flowers, these will disappear in later summer where other summer bloomers take over. A spring ephemeral that forms large colonies over time, the flowers start off pink and gradually turn a beautiful shade of blue as they mature. I often see bumblebees visit the flowers which last for at least a month, and then disappear. Preferring woodland conditions- rich moist soil I have no problem growing them in my clay soil here in the mid-Atlantic.

Love in a Mist

Love in a Mist, or Nigella hispanica, is an annual which I sow in early March when the weather is still chilly. I scrape off some soil and sprinkle some seeds and by June, I am rewarded with a cloud of blossoms which bloom and turn into interesting seed pods.

Coming in an array of blue shades, Love in a mist will bloom in the spring and form beautiful seed pods
The seed pods dry beautifully

Blue Salvia ‘Victoria Blue’

Blue annual Salvia

Salvia farinacea, another annual that I grow for its true blue color is planted every year in my garden. Easy to grow in full sun, I cut the flower wands for drying and use them in dried flower wreaths and arrangements. Drying true to color, they add a huge color focal point to any arrangement.

A cut bunch of Salvia ready for drying
A dried arrangement with blue Saliva
Dried Salvia

Scabiosa

Scabiosa ‘Fama Deep Blue’

Scabiosa or Pin Cushion flower grows in full sun to part shade with huge (3-4″) flowers. The stunning flowers are fewer in number than the more commonly seen ‘Butterfly Blue’, but spectacular.

Scabiosa ‘Fama Deep Blue’

Offering up double blossoms begging to be cut and placed in an arrangement, it blooms off and on all summer  Nodding flowers held on top of long stems, the flowers can last up to a week in a vase and longer on the plant. Also in a white form, you need to dead head to keep the flower show coming.

Bulbs & Tubers

Spring color is easy to add with fall planted bulbs, by planning a little bit ahead. Grape Hyacinths, Camassia, Scilla,  Iris, and Agapanthus, are my top picks for blue splashes.

Grape Hyacinth ‘Valerie Finnis’
Scilla peruviana
Japanese Iris
Agapanthus
Bearded Iris
Iris ‘Lecture’

 

Camassia bulbs make a great color statement in the spring

Accessories

Anything that you add to your garden – benches, obelisks, bridges, glass balls, etc., is a blank canvas for you to amp up color impact. Forget natural teak benches! and include something with color instead.

Blue obelisk
Add glass balls for color
At Chanticleer, blue painted chairs add a pop of color
Blue Bug
I would love a real peacock to ornament my garden!
Clematis

Mantel Magic

mantel

Inspired after decorating at the White House, I tackled embellishing my mantel when I returned home. Fresh greens, glittery balls and ornaments, and a little imagination is all it takes to make a welcoming festive mantle. I had some peacocks that I wanted to use so decided to go with blues and greens for my color scheme. Forget using the same old red as your primary color for Christmas! Push the envelope and try colors and subjects that normally you don’t associate with Christmas for a unique design.

Decorated mantel in the Vermeil room at the White House
Decorated mantel in the Vermeil Room at the White House; with teddy bears and shell trees
DSCN6340
China  Room mantel at the White House
Mantel
Red Room mantle at the White House
mantle
Closeup of Green Room mantel at White House

Starting with a fresh green garland, I used  25 feet of cedar roping that I doubled up to make it extra full. I was really impressed at the White House with the quality of their fresh garlands which were made out of magnolia, fir, or cedar. Some were as thick as my leg! When I shopped for garlands at home, they were on the sparse side. If you can’t find what you want you can always wire your own garland together. Doubling my garland made it plenty thick for my needs. Pull some pieces down over the edge to give depth.

Fluff some of the greens down to hang over the edge
Fluff some of the greens down to hang over the edge
Wire in some additional greens like magnolia, and some dried hydrangeas
Wire in some additional greens like magnolia to match the wreath, and some dried hydrangeas
Start adding glittery elements; here I used silver gilded Eucalyptus and fake picks of glittered branches
Start adding glittery elements; here I used silver gilded Eucalyptus and fake picks of glittered branches, and Nandina foliage
Wire in your premium colored picks
Wire in your premium colored picks
Wire your balls on the garland, clustering the larger ones in the center
Wire your balls on the garland, clustering the larger ones in the center and on either end
Arrange your ribbon in layers, and wire it together at 2 foot intervals; weave it through the garland
Arrange your ribbon in layers, and wire it together at 2 foot intervals; weave it through the garland
Make a large multi-lopped bow and weaves the ends into the garland and have some hang
Make a large multi-looped bow and place one on each end of the mantel; Weave the ends into the garland and allow some to hang
When using multiple layers of ribbon, it works best using a bow maker
When using multiple layers of ribbon, it works best using a bow maker

I am a recent convert to “bow makers”. Many floral designers think these are frivolous but when you are dealing with many layers of wide ribbon, it works like a charm. The work of twisting and cinching the ribbon leaves your fingers free and makes a truly professional looking bow.

Cluster the larger balls with the peacocks in the center
Cluster the larger balls with the peacocks in the center

mantle

mantel

mantel