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Garden Clippings: Got Garden Blues? That’s Cool.

Look to cool blue hues during the dog days of summer.

F. Scott Fitzgerald gave Gatsby a blue garden. Maybe it symbolized his circle’s tragic detachments. Maybe it was a sign of the “cool” Jazz Age they ushered in.

Maybe it was hot as Hades when Fitzgerald wrote "The Great Gatsby."

Because whether “midnight” or “sapphire” “lavender” or “French,” blue in the garden is a nifty trick to make your garden seem five degrees cooler. In the Valley who can argue with that?

Many gardeners eschew blue. They find it lacks the cheeriness of yellow, the depth of red. I gravitate to it. I love to see pale blue salvia flickering against the trees like a like a Terrence Malick movie; I’m ready to enlist in the same cause as black knight buddleia, so steadfast that swallowtails and monarchs attach themselves to it; and my on-again-off-again relationship with the delphinium--the demanding, romantic cottage gardener’s flower--is on again.

So consider giving your garden some summertime blues. Remember that when you go to the nursery you will likely spy plants that read “purple” such as scaevola and agapanthus or plants that are lavender in color such as wild onions and vinca vine or come upon the reddish blue of pentsemon, columbine, monkshood or verbena. In garden parlance they are all called “blue.”


If you want to stick to a strict color scheme, try blue bigleaf hydrangeas. There are ways to maintain them so that the blue is predominant. And delphiniums offer some of the truest-blue for the garden. Unfortunately both these species require extra attention. Hydrangea want shade; delphiniums want whatever you aren’t giving them.
For our climate a no-brainer is Salvia azurea which prefers hot, dry sites, full sun and well-drained soil. Also blue aster is an easygoing winner. You may get tangled up in blue with morning glory vines, but they are enchanting if you keep them in check. And a prolific blue bloomer with a trailing habit is the scaevola. For wildflower gardeners, consider borage with its hairy stems and leaves plus you can add it to salads.

Blue roses came up for sale this fall in the United States after being released first in Tokyo. These are not the dyed roses that florists use but instead have been genetically modified with the pigment delphinidin, found in most blue flowers. Ask for them by name--“Applause” rose.

Maybe I’m related to bees, which also have a preference to the color blue. Bumblebees, honey bees, mason bees et al see in the ultraviolet spectrum the colors of blue-green, blue, violet, and ultraviolet. Red fades into the background. Treat the little buzzers to the bold pate Agapanthus, wild and suitable-for-salads hyssop, all manner of lavender, old-fashioned roadside plumbago, high-climbing morning glories, and low-lying lobelia and alyssum.


To create a cool, calming effect in the garden pair your blue flowers with white iceberg roses or rugosa alba roses or white fortnight lilly; also add green and white variegated foliage or silver plants.

Stake taller delphinium varieties to keep them from toppling over. Grow them in a soil that's rich in organic matter and don’t skimp on the fertilizer if your soil is less than perfect.

To keep hydrangea blue, increase the acidity by adding sulfur. No direct sun and don’t let them get too dry.

Accessorize in blue: a birdbath, painted-window trim, birdhouse, blue chair, dry river bed with blue glass.

I might as well face it, I’m addicted to pots. Blue pots. Mix and match a collection of blue glazed pots starting at the front door or group blue pots to create a path or focal point.


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