In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
August, 2003
Regional Report

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I have more than 50 different perennials growing in my borders, but when the delphiniums are in bloom, they own the border.

Cool Blues for Hot August Gardens

Nothing attracts livelier debates in gardening circles than color, but everyone agrees on one point – there's never enough blue. I concur, and over the years I've collected quite a variety of blue-flowering annuals and perennials. Some have earned top honors and become my favorites; others never quite made the grade because their flowers were too violet-blue or their growth was puny regardless of care.

Towers of Beauty
In the bluest of blue flower category, delphiniums and veronicas top the list. Both are adaptable perennials, growing and multiplying with relative ease in my garden.

Commonly known as speedwells, veronicas are members of the figwort family, along with mullein, penstemons, and foxgloves. Nearly 300 species of veronica have been identified, growing on every continent except Antarctica. They live in deserts, meadows, woods, and even in the smallest crevices of solid rock. With that kind of versatility, it's no surprise that one or another is sure to thrive in almost any microclimate your garden can provide.

Delphiniums can grow from Alaska to Zimbabwe if you meet their basic needs. They require 4 to 6 hours of direct sun to produce the strongest stems and largest flower spikes. For the best performance, I provide rich, well-draining soil, protection from midday sunshine, and shelter from drying winds. Traditionally early-summer bloomers, delphiniums will rebloom later in the season if the main flowering stalk is removed after the flowers have faded.

Ground Covers and Fillers
Also on my list of notable blue-flowering plants are Myosotis (forget-me-not); Pratia (blue star creeper); Echinops 'Blue Globe' (globe thistle), with steel-blue flower heads; Centaurea montana (mountain bluet), sporting large, fringed flowers of intense blue; and Gentian 'moorcroftiana', with rich, mid-blue blooms. Just for fun, I've tucked a few blueberry plants into the sunniest garden beds. You can't go wrong with blueberries. Besides producing scrumptious fruit, the plants have a neat, compact growth habit and provide excellent fall color. I know it's almost cheating to include them, but the white, urn-shaped flowers are fleeting - the bold blue fruit remains for weeks.

Blue is the color of fresh water and clear skies. It creates a feeling of spaciousness and is soothing to the soul. It matters not whether your garden is formal or an eclectic mix like mine, eye-catching shades of blue are always in style. I honestly believe there's no such thing as too much blue!


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