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When a Garden Has the Blues

November 20, 2009

Blue phase in the Blue and Yellow border (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) A person who has the blues is sad, but a garden that has the blues is joyous. Yellow flowers cheer me up and make me smile, but blue flowers create a much deeper feeling of joy and serenity. Recently, Kiki at Awake with Charm and Spirit published a wonderful post on The Color Essence of Blue and then followed up by issuing a Blue Essence Invitation to other bloggers. This is my response to that invitation.

Blue flowers dominate my garden in June, when the siberian irises bloom. These blooms reflect one of the things I love most about blue flowers, the incredible range of shades and intensity of blues available.

In this photo, the pale blue of Iris sibirica ‘Superego’ in the front, is combined with the deeper blue of I. sibirica ‘Tiffany Lass’ (right rear) and the more violet blue of an old fashioned siberian iris (maybe ‘Caesar’ or ‘Caesar’s Brother’) at the left rear. Siberian iris shades of blue (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)
And look at the extraordinary aqua blue in the interior of this iris. Iris interior (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)

But even when the siberian irises are done, there are many other blue flowers in the garden to bring me joy.

Tradescantia 'Zwanenburg Blue' (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) Gerainium 'Brookside' (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)

Tradescantia ‘Zwanenburg Blue’ and geranium ‘Brookside’ bloom continuously for most of the season here.

Blue spires of delphinium (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) In July and August, the tall blue spires of delphinium grace the back of the blue and yellow border,
… and Platycodon ‘Sentimental Blue’ spills onto the back steps. Platycodon 'Sentimental Blue' (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)
'Heavenly Blue' morning glories (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) In the fall, if I’m lucky, I can drink in the ‘Heavenly Blue’ of morning glories on the garden fence.

I have noticed that some of my blue flowers are temperature sensitive. In the morning, especially if the overnight temperatures have gotten down below 50 F, they will be an intense electric blue, turning more violet blue as the day heats up. This is true of Tradescantia ‘Zwanenburg Blue.’ An even more dramatic example of this effect can be found in Phlox paniculata ‘Blue Paradise;’ this flower will change color from an eye-popping intense blue on cold mornings to an equally eye-popping hot pink by late afternoon when the sun is shining on it. (Unfortunately, I have no photos to show this color transformation because, for the past two seasons, the resident woodchuck has eaten ‘Blue Paradise’ before it could bloom. Sad)

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39 Comments leave one →
  1. Nell Jean permalink
    November 20, 2009 9:37 am

    Every garden needs blues. I woke this morning thinking about how the orange violas I’m going to plant today need some dianthus planted in front so the glaucous foliage contrasts.

    Tradescantia blooms ahead of many other spring plants here, so I let the self-seeders remain along the back of a long bed.

    • Jean Potuchek permalink*
      November 20, 2009 11:14 am

      After reading your comment, Nell, I had to stop and think whether I had some blues in every part of the garden. If you count glaucous foliage, then the answer is yes. I realized, though, that the only area without any blue flowers is the bedroom border — and that has always been the least successful part of the garden, despite umpsteen redesigns over the years. Maybe what it needs is some blue flowers!

  2. November 20, 2009 9:58 am

    Gorgeous blooms! Number 3 is extra-gorgeous! I love blue flowers. Your post is a good start for my rainy morning. Thank you Jean!

    • Jean Potuchek permalink*
      November 20, 2009 11:19 am

      It’s raining here this morning, too, Tatyana; and, you’re right, looking at those blue flowers makes the rain seem more pleasurable. The third picture is my favorite, too. I’m just blown away by those swirls of aqua. The way they combine with the violet hues makes me think about Diana’s (at Elephant’s Eye) plans for a blue and violet garden.

  3. November 20, 2009 11:12 am

    Hi Jean..my gosh what a LOVELY and Super-inspiring Blue post! It is radiantly beautiful!! I really enjoyed this! I absolutely love the photo of the Iris..wow!! You have such a beautiful array of Blues in your garden..just gorgeous.Thankyou for creating such a Fabulous Blue post!! I am thrilled!I loved hearing your thoughts on blue..beautiful!!Thankyou!
    Kiki~

    • Jean Potuchek permalink*
      November 20, 2009 11:24 am

      Kiki, I’m thrilled that you’re loving this post. My thanks to you for creating the inspiration for doing this.

  4. November 20, 2009 1:25 pm

    I just love blue flowers, and you have so many to show. I especially like the iris…so many different shades of blue. The light blue of the delphinium are also beautiful.

    • Jean Potuchek permalink*
      November 22, 2009 3:23 pm

      The delphinium also come in a wonderful variety of blues, although I like this sky blue the best. These are probably the most work-intensive flowers I grow. Although they like my cool climate, they also like sweet soil (which I definitely don’t have), and they need to be fertilized twice a year. Because they are at the back of the border, near the woods, they are vulnerable to the depredations of the woodchuck. And some years, for no reason that I can discern, they just don’t come back and have to be replaced. It’s all worth it, though, because they are so beautiful when they are in bloom (and make great cut flowers for the house.)

  5. November 20, 2009 1:43 pm

    Oh, Jean you have some beautiful blues in your garden. I just love your iri and delpheniums. Gorgeous. Oh, I want spring already 😉

    • Jean Potuchek permalink*
      November 22, 2009 3:19 pm

      Well, spring is something to look forward to, but it will be about 5 months before it gets here. (We usually have snow on the ground well into April.) But I also love the fallow garden-dreaming time, the snow, and the extraordinary quality of light that comes with snow here in winter. And the garden is always just perfect in my winter imagination!

  6. November 20, 2009 4:58 pm

    Beautiful! I love the blue iris and the delpheniums. Blue is such a peaceful, cool color, something I cherish in my hot climate.

    • Jean Potuchek permalink*
      November 20, 2009 5:08 pm

      Is it just my imagination, or are blue flowers more climate specific than other colors? There are blue flowers for every climate, but almost all the ones I grow (siberian iris, delphinium, geranium) are flowers that like to be cool. And there are other blue flowers (e.g., blue lace-cap hydrangeas) that I would love to grow but that are just not hardy here.

  7. November 20, 2009 7:04 pm

    Blue must be universally loved. When clients come into the flower shop for a bouquet, a lot will ask for blue flowers. There really is not a lot of commercially growen blue cut flowers. I think that this is something that needs to be adressed.

    • Jean Potuchek permalink*
      November 21, 2009 12:06 am

      Deborah, I hadn’t thought about this, but the only blue flowers I remember seeing in florist shops are irises. Any idea why other blues aren’t grown for cut flowers? Lupines, scabiosa and platycodon all seem like they would have potential.

      • November 21, 2009 8:08 am

        Jean, we do get lupines in season (unfortunately very short) and scabiosa (also very short) but never the platycodon. I am not sure if vase longevity is a problem. Mostly it is hydrangea, delphs, lisianthus, stock, anamones, other bulbs in season. You can see how it leans towards the purple, that blue is elusive.

  8. November 20, 2009 10:04 pm

    I’m with you on the blues … they always draw me in and I can’t get enough. Heavenly blue morning glories are one of my faves, along with iris, of course, and scabiosa – which is still blooming in my south-central CT garden.

    • Jean Potuchek permalink*
      November 21, 2009 12:09 am

      Joene, that’s a lovely iris in your gravatar. Is it a siberian? Do you grow any blue geranium there in CT? It seems like you would be in a perfect climate to have lots to choose from. I don’t know how attractive they are to deer; the deer never bother mine, but our deer are shyer because they still have lots of natural habitat left.

  9. November 20, 2009 10:15 pm

    Jean, The blues in your irises are beautiful. I especially like the close-up. All the others are glorious also. I do love blue flowers!

    • Jean Potuchek permalink*
      November 21, 2009 12:12 am

      I never get tired of looking at the swirls at the center of that iris. Some of my pink ones have aqua swirls at the center, too. I would say that everyone must love blue flowers, except that I have a sister who does not like blue flowers.

  10. November 21, 2009 2:10 am

    What beautiful blues your garden has! I love the irises!

    • Jean Potuchek permalink*
      November 21, 2009 4:06 pm

      Thanks, Catherine. I love the irises, too — which is why it was such a blow when the iris budfly showed up in my garden a few years ago. Up until then, the irises were a trouble-free joy; now I have to work for their beauty.

  11. November 21, 2009 12:28 pm

    Your Siberian irises are lovely. Irises have such fascinating flower forms, don’t they? I have ‘Caesar’s Brother’ and ‘Superego’, but my garden doesn’t seem to agree with them — too dry, I suspect, and the sandy soil doesn’t hold enough nutrients. It really needs to be improved, but this has been a very busy year. Next year, I hope to have more success, and then perhaps can have a happy case of the blues.

    • Jean Potuchek permalink*
      November 21, 2009 4:18 pm

      Helen, I find it so hard to figure out sometimes why one plant will grow in my garden and another will not. I, too, have sandy soil. The old-fashioned siberian irises like ‘Caesar’s Brother’ that are not far removed from the species don’t seem bothered by this at all. They have spread all over my back slope in largely unimproved soil. For the new hybrids, though, like ‘Superego,’ I do a lot of double digging, adding about 1 cubic foot each of compost and composted cow manure to each 6 cubic feet of my sandy soil. What are the ph conditions in Toronto? Here we tend to have acid soil, and the irises seem to like this.

  12. November 21, 2009 6:33 pm

    Your garden very pretty and I love blue and yellow together. You have pretty combinations! I was just thinking how I like the layout of your blog. I like your comment and reply section. Pretty post and I love blue!

    • Jean Potuchek permalink*
      November 21, 2009 8:34 pm

      Thanks, Amy. Yellow is my favorite color, but blue is a very close second; so it’s probably not surprising that I have the yellow/blue combination all over my garden and my house. I like the way that my blue and yellow border starts out as mostly blue with yellow accents, and then the yellows get stronger and stronger until they become dominant in August.

  13. November 22, 2009 1:40 am

    What a beautiful and impressive collection of blues in your garden. Your Irises are stunning, and I really like your Platycodon, I haven’t seen this variety before. Great post, it’s been so much fun seeing everyone’s blues. 🙂 Rebecca

    • Jean Potuchek permalink*
      November 22, 2009 10:29 am

      I agree, Rebecca, it really has been fun seeing everyone’s blues. Most of the blue platycodon in my garden are tall ones, either the species mariesii or the closely related variety ‘Fuji Blue.’ ‘Sentimental Blue’ is a dwarf variety, and this is the only place I have it growing. The tall varieties are very hardy in my garden (self-sowing like crazy), but the dwarf seems more delicate.

  14. November 22, 2009 3:59 pm

    Contrary to the psychological blues, your “blues” are quite enjoyable. I’ll have to run over to Teza’s blog and give him a heads up. He’s all about blue, the color that is.

    • Jean Potuchek permalink*
      November 22, 2009 5:38 pm

      Grace, I don’t think I quite realized how much joy my blue flowers gave me until I set myself the task of going through my garden photos and picking out the “blues.” Just writing this post made me feel mildly euphoric. (I think Teza’s been onto this effect of blue for a while.)

  15. November 22, 2009 4:45 pm

    I hadn’t been thinking much in terms of blue while planning some color-themed beds in my new garden, but when I asked my children what colors they’d like to have, my 18-yr-old otherwise disdainfully uninterested-in-the-garden son promptly replied:”blue”. So I’ve been looking for ideas and am particularly inspired by your morning glories, which seem most truly blue. Thanks for a lovely post. Barbara

    • Jean Potuchek permalink*
      November 22, 2009 5:40 pm

      Barbara, I love the color of those morning glories. I assume that your climate in Mannheim is milder than ours here in Maine, which should make the morning glories a lot easier to grow. ‘Heavenly Blue’ is the seed variety to look for. It just shows the power of blue in the garden that it can even engage the interest of an adolescent boy. 🙂

  16. November 23, 2009 10:55 pm

    Blues are wonderful in the garden…and my favorites, overall. Yours are lovely;-) I wrote a post last Feb. about the blues…(seasonal affective disorder) and illustrated it with bluebird photos! I’ll probably re-publish the post as the winter gets going and it gets dreary…

    • Jean permalink*
      November 24, 2009 9:31 am

      Jan, I do hope you’ll re-publish your post with the bluebirds. I don’t see many bluebirds here — more in Gettysburg — but they always gladden my heart. Which gets us back to Kiki’s original question: what is it about blue, about its essence, that is so pleasurable?

  17. November 24, 2009 2:20 pm

    Love your blues Jean ~ especially those iris. This was a lovely post. I love blues in my garden, they really touch my soul.

    FlowerLady

    • Jean permalink*
      November 24, 2009 2:42 pm

      Thanks. I got into blogging primarily to write about my garden; but I’m finding those photo essay posts very enjoyable (both to produce and to consume).

  18. November 30, 2009 5:25 pm

    Oh, I do love that blue spiderwort…it is a great shade plant…I think maybe I should get into the blues…
    GartenGrl

    • Jean permalink*
      November 30, 2009 6:14 pm

      The blue spiderwort is one of those plants that just loves to grow in my garden; I have tons of it, but I never get tired of that color. Some people do all blue flower beds or blue and white combinations, but I like the breathtaking ‘pop’ of blue flowers when they’re combined with yellows and oranges. In one part of my garden, I have blue spiderwort growing in front of a gold daylily. When I look out on them on July mornings, it always reminds me of sunrise over a lake.

  19. December 1, 2009 11:08 am

    What an impressive variety of blues you have in your garden, Jean! I’m green with ‘envy’ as our garden lacks that shade even though blue is my favourite colour for gardens. There aren’t many choices of blue flowers in our tropical country, so we just have Blue Hydrangea, Blue Plumbago and Blue Daze to cheer us.
    Thanks for sharing all these lovelies.
    Cheers!

    • Jean permalink*
      December 1, 2009 11:43 am

      Thanks, Jacq. Of course, envy goes both ways; I would love to have blue hydrangea in my garden, but they don’t bloom reliably this far north.

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