In the Garden:
Coastal and Tropical South
July, 2014
Regional Report

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Bold blue chaste tree holds the power to cool the summer scene.

Cool Garden Blues

On a hot afternoon the colors in your garden can make the difference between it feeling like an oasis or an oven. For flowers, hardscape, and furniture -- think blue!

Powerful Cooling
Bright yellow and red will warm your heart -- but maybe too much at 4 p.m. in July! Keep shades of blue close at hand, the icier the shade the better. Blue chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus) sets the standard for color with a cool attitude. This small, usually multi-stemmed tree thrives in heat and bears spikes of fragrant blue flowers in summer and fall. Echo its blues with plumbago (Plumbago auriculata), an evergreen shrub that sports clusters of clear blue flowers from spring to fall; its many visiting butterflies will thank you. Go further into the blues by growing Brazilian sky flower (Duranta stenostachya). At least three varieties of this compact shrub are widely available, including ones with yellow-edged leaves and white edging on frilly blue flowers. Those in the tropical region can also enjoy blue butterfly bush (Clerodendrum ugandense) and queen's wreath vine (Petrea volubilis) for blue flowers in any sunny spot.

Combining Blue and Other Colors
Because blue shades fade first as twilight approaches, consider carefully the other colors you pair them with. Whites and pastels offer contrast and additional cooling effect when combined with blue. Grow a column covered in blue clock vine (Thunbergia grandiflora) intertwined with moon flowers (Ipomoea alba), or a blue cultivar of rose-of-Sharon, also called althea, (Hibiscus syriacus) in combination with white and pink 'Disco Belle' hardy hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos). But plan for more of the blue-flowered plants to keep the colors in balance when the sun is setting.

Beyond Plants
Don't overlook benches, fountains, hammocks, and chair cushions to bring soothing blues into the garden. Add a blue chair, tablecloth, or garden flag to your color scheme; fill a blue pot with pink petunias; even paint the deck in stripes of navy or royal blue. It may not register on the thermometer, but all those blue will help give the garden a cooler ambiance. Well, that and sucking on a blue popsicle!


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