Good to Grow: Introduce blues into the rhythm of your garden

As published in the Charleston Gazette.

“The blue bell is the sweetest flower
That waves in summer air;
Its blossoms have the mightiest power
To soothe my spirit’s care.”
— “The Blue Bell,” by Emily Bronte

I love blues. Yes, the music, and blue china, blue skies, blue jeans and blue in the garden.

Now is the time to start planning and incorporating blue to get the color into your landscape year-round. I have allium and English bluebell bulbs to plant this fall.

Bluebells like a little shade and bloom in the late spring. This sweet plant is small and ideal for mass or cluster plantings. The foliage can grow approximately 10 inches and should come back next year when allowed to die back naturally after blooming.

Other bulbs to think of planting now include irises, grape hyacinths and anemones. Soon it will be time to plant pansies. They come in a variety of colors, including blue. These are hardworking flowers who like the cold temperatures, blooming into late fall/early winter.

Having color in your landscape late in the year can be irresistible, but know that pansies are also irresistible to deer. If you plant them, spray, cover or keep them out of reach of the deer, otherwise they will likely disappear overnight.

I have the spreading geranium Roxanne in my garden. It trails and produces blue blooms in mid-summer. So far, it has been deer-resistant.

Next to the geranium, I have tiny iris cristatas, given to me by a friend and planted under a tree. They have begun to spread, and I’m excited to see the blooms next year.

Other blues to think about planting are pulmonaria or lungwort, which blooms in early spring and has silver spotted leaves; lobelia and baptisia will give you a bit of height and blue blooms in partially shaded areas.

I often wander through the local garden centers to clear my head and enjoy a chat with the experts. This is where I mentioned to Chis Higgins of Valley Gardens that I was “feeling blue” and he was a wealth of knowledge and ideas. Thank you, Chris, for always sharing your expertise, and thanks for helping set up my blue photoshoot.

We talked about longwood blue caryopteris, which will attract butterflies. It likes full sun and blooms from mid-summer to mid-fall. This is a plant to prune in early spring after new leaves begin to appear. Prune hard to remove any dead growth.

Speaking of butterflies, the black knight butterfly bush is another blue for the garden. It also likes full sun, and I follow the same rules of pruning for the bush in my garden.

I can say without a doubt that this bush lives up to its name. Butterflies hover and feed off of this bush’s blooms all season.

When I think of rose of Sharon, I think of a neighbor’s yard from long ago. As a child I remember their bush, which was covered in white flowers with pink centers all summer long. I thought it was so beautiful and I remember picking the flowers and bringing them home.

The blue chiffon rose of Sharon hibiscus bush is deciduous (meaning it sheds its leaves annually) and likes full sun. It can be planted as a hedge or “thriller” in a garden spot.

Other ideas for shrubs include callicarpa beautyberry. This deciduous shrub will grow 3 to 6 feet tall and have loads of berries in the fall. Another bonus is the berries make a great add-in for fall floral arrangements. They will dry and continue to add interest to your arrangements for months.

Viburnum Brandywine also produces clusters of glorious berries. These berries are a great way to attract and feed birds in your garden.

A few more groundcovers to consider. Ceratostigma plumbago — or hardy plumbago — is a groundcover with superpowers. After producing blue blooms in the late summer, the green foliage turns a beautiful burgundy color in the fall. I love a plant that does double-duty throughout the year. Another example of this is blue ice amsonia. This early summer bloomer’s foliage will turn a golden yellow in the fall.

Yes, I’ve got the blues, and could go on and on: hydrangea, blue spruce, ajuga, phlox. For me, I like creating a cool spot for my eye to land in a garden of warm yellows, pinks and reds.

Maybe you have Mountaineer fever and want to create a blue and gold garden spot. Or maybe you plant a patriotic red, white and blue flower bed. You could be coordinating with patio accessories such as chairs or tables.

Whatever your design, don’t be afraid of the blues. Try introducing them into the rhythm of your garden.