Home & Design: Landscape

Garden Blues

Cool Colors Are Calming And Restful
By Anne Halpin - May 14, 2019

Blue is the most unusual color in the plant world, and one to be treasured. Blue flowers and foliage bring special qualities to the garden. Cool colors like blue, green, purple and violet are calming and restful. Blue appears to recede in space, and creates a feeling of serenity and peace. This color of the sea and the sky calms us and makes us feel cool. Planting blue and purple flowers in the back of a garden can make the garden appear larger and deeper than it actually is. A garden of blues and purples seems somehow cool, even in hot sun. Deep blues and purples bring a hint of mystery, too, like the sky at twilight or the depths of a still pool. Blue flowers, and blue and blue-gray foliage, can create the feeling of an island of tranquility, especially around a small pool or fountain, or in a seating area. Cool pink flowers are lovely with blues and purples in the garden, especially when accompanied by silvery foliage; when the colors are pastels the effect can be soft and misty. And flowers aren’t the only source of blues for the garden – it can come from foliage, too. There are hostas with blue-green and bluish silver leaves that can add form and volume to gardens where deer are excluded. Whether you are growing your flowers in the garden or in pots and tubs on a deck or patio, you can combine colors in the way that suits your disposition, and/or that harmonizes or accents the color of your house. 

To create a garden built around blue, it’s helpful to plan your color scheme in advance of heading to the local nursery or garden center, or visiting an online catalog. There are many ways to include blue in your garden. If you’d like a harmonious feeling, combine blue flowers and/or foliage with shades of pink, from soft pastels to richer rosy tones. Add some purple. Mixing in some silver foliage will pull the colors together for a pleasant, quiet harmony. Blue and peach or salmon is another lovely combination; add a shot of yellow for a sunnier effect. For a color contrast, you can mix blue and yellow flowers, or blue and orange. For a more classic look, blue and white can create a formal, quiet feeling. To soften it, mix in some creamy ivory tones. Or go patriotic with red, white and blue flowers.

Here are some terrific blue plants to consider adding to your in-ground or container landscape this year.

Hydrangeas – In summer blue hydrangeas are everywhere, echoing the color of the summer sky. Classic varieties need to be pruned, if needed, shortly after the plants finish blooming. Newer varieties will produce flowers no matter when you prune them.

Scilla siberica, Siberian squills – These are small bulbs planted in fall. Among the earliest flowers to bloom in spring – along with crocuses – these little charmers burst forth with true blue flowers while most of the garden is still asleep. Plant lots of them. Deer don’t bother them. 

Bachelor’s button – These old fashioned annual flowers are planted from seed in spring and bloom for a long time in summer, producing lots of ethereal blue flowers.

Ceratostigma – Also known as plumbago or leadwort, these low-growing perennials are quiet front-of-the border plants most of the season, then burst forth with flowers of brilliant electric blue in late summer and fall. 

Johnson’s Blue hardy geranium – Not to be confused with the geraniums that are everywhere in summer pots, this is perennial relative sends out blue blossoms in spring and summer. A lovely addition to partly shady gardens.

Heavenly Blue morning glory – One of my favorite plants in the world, this carefree vine needs a place to climb. Its summer flowers truly justify its name. They keep on coming until the weather gets too cool in fall. 

Salvia – Salvias come in a range of colors, but my favorite is the annual mealycup sage, Salvia farinacea. Like other salvias, its tiny flowers are gathered into vertical spikes. Many salvias are purple or violet, but this one is real blue. If you can find it, grow it!

Hostas – If you can keep the deer out of your garden, you can enjoy hostas. Their foliage adds form and texture to the shade garden, and they bloom, too. Seek out the bluer varieties to add a cool note to your garden.

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