In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
June, 2006
Regional Report

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Forget-me-nots are also available in pink and white, but I love the sky blue variety.

Fabulous Forget-Me-Nots

Forget-me-nots are so beautiful and easy to grow that I'm not surprised I see them so often in local gardens. For about a month in spring, their low mounds of fresh, green, thumb-shaped leaves send up 6- to 12-inch-tall stalks bearing blue, and sometimes white or pink flowers. The flowers are each only about 1/4 inch across, but there are lots of them. From a short distance they look like small puffs of soft color, wafting through the garden.

Forget-me-nots (Myosotis sylvatica) are usually biennial. They stop flowering and set seeds with the arrival of summer heat. Small seedlings appear unobtrusively in fall, then bloom the following spring. You may also run across perennial forget-me-nots (M. scorpioides), which thrive in boggy sites. Perennial forget-me-nots don't put on as impressive a show as their biennial cousins, but they can flower over a much longer season, usually from spring all the way through summer.

Once you have forget-me-nots in your garden, you're likely to always have them. They seed themselves in the shady, moist places that suit them best. Starting with a dozen or so plants, you can have all the forget-me-nots you want within a few years. I've never bought them. My first plant arrived as a hitchhiker in a pass-along pot of begonias, a gift from a very dear friend. I always think of her when I admire my collection of forget-me-nots.

Impish Behavior
Forget-me-nots have a habit of coming up where they want to rather than where you want them to. They sometimes seem almost clever, creating unanticipated and beautiful combinations. Left to themselves, they can form a pale blue carpet through which late-flowering bulbs, primroses, and taller perennials can find their way.

If you don't want to leave combination-making to chance, wait until spring and move the plants to suit your taste. Forget-me-nots are easy to move. I lift mine with a trowel, pile them up in a basket and plunk them where I want them. They bloom just as profusely in their new homes as plants that have not been disturbed.

Moving forget-me-nots opens up all sorts of possibilities. For example, you might try interplanting them with early tulips, such as Darwin Hybrids, which bloom at the same time. Plant the tulip bulbs in the fall. Then transplant forget-me-nots around the emerging tulip shoots in the spring. Vibrant pink or red tulips look magnificent hovering over a carpet of pale blue forget-me-nots.

Forget-me-nots also make beautiful pot plants. Dig them in the spring and transplant them into a container with spring-blooming annuals, such as pansies or snapdragons. When summer arrives, replace the forget-me-nots and pansies with heat-tolerant annuals and you'll have a long season of color.

Care and Culture
Forget-me-nots prefer cool weather and moist soil. They grow best in lightly shaded areas, but in wet soil they can take full sun. In hot-summer climates, they need shade and extra moisture to survive.

Forget-me-nots are easy to start from seeds. Just scatter seeds in a shady garden area at the end of summer. The seedlings will have plenty of time to settle in before winter. You can also start seeds indoors. In spring, sow the seeds on the surface of moistened potting soil and keep the temperature about 65 degrees F. Once the plants are big enough to handle, acclimate them slowly to life in the outdoors before transplanting them into the garden. If you start seeds indoors in early spring, you may have flowers by fall; spring-sown plants that don't flower the first year will overwinter and bloom the following spring.

Because forget-me-nots are usually biennial, they die soon after they flower. Death is not their finest hour; they grow leggy, dry up, and are sometimes beset by powdery mildew in their waning days. But to ensure a good crop the following year, you must resist the temptation to pull them up, for they are setting seeds during this brief unattractive period. Happily, when forget-me-nots look their worst, many perennials are coming into bloom, and annuals are beginning to fill in. I try to overlook my sad plants at this time and concentrate instead on the vibrant colors of my lobelia and impatiens.

Whether you let them sprout and grow where they want, or move them to produce a specific effect, forget-me-nots are always very accommodating. Once you are familiar with them, they will become part and parcel of your spring garden.


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