Sunday, April 17, 2011

Spring Blues

Blue is my favorite color, and I am delighted to find blue wildflowers in Georgia whenever I can.  Blue is certainly not the most common color, but once you start looking around you'll find them.  After spotting this beautiful Iris verna in my yard this week, I decided to think of all the blue spring wildflowers that I have seen in North Georgia this spring.

Iris verna

If I go back in time, the first blue flower to bloom is Hepatica, often blooming in January in my yard.  The leaves are evergreen and, as long as they aren't covered by fallen leaves, they provide a welcome reminder that the woods are alive.  Fresh new leaves emerge after the blooms are gone, often with intricate patterns dappling the surface.

Hepatica nobilis var. obtusa
New leaves on Hepatica

Next to bloom are the Bluets - tiny blooms that often gather in enough quantities so that you can spot them.  We find several species of Houstonia in North Georgia, but Houstonia caerulea is the early spring bloomer. I sometimes see it peeking through blades of grass in lawns - what a cheerful addition!

Houstonia caerulea
The violets start blooming shortly after the Bluets.  Often scorned by gardeners, especially those that like weed-free lawns, the violets are a welcome sign of spring to me.  Several different species have found their way into my yard.  Two species that I have brought in on purpose are the Bird's Foot violet (Viola pedata), which grows naturally in poor soil, and the Longspur violet (Viola rostrata) which grows in a more wooded environment.

Viola pedata

Viola rostrata

Two of the more common violets, the ones most likely to be considered lawn weeds, have moved in on their own.  Common violet, Viola sororia, comes in not only a luscious deep purple color but also a delightful bicolor variation that some folks call "Confederate Violet".  I was able to photograph the two color variations in a field near my house where they grow naturally together.  This particular species is one that has cleistogamous flowers during the summer which increases the overall seed production of the plant.  Cleistogamous flowers are closed flowers that have no petals and are self-pollinating. This species also develops thick rhizomes which makes it harder to uproot as the plant gets older.
Viola sororia
Viola bicolor

Viola bicolor has dissected leaves, not unlike the Bird's Foot violet, but a very shallow root system so it is easily pulled out when unwanted.  Unwanted it may be but the flower is still quite lovely.

Next to bloom is the Woodland Phlox (Phlox divaricata) which can be softly fragrant as well as beautiful.  Nurseries are propagating cultivars of this plant these days - I have seen 'Chattahoochee' for sale at local native plant sales.  This is sometimes called Wild Sweet William.

Phlox divaricata
Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) are an old-fashioned favorite plant that provide a treat - not only are they blue but, as they age, the blooms turn pink!  The combination of the two colors is spectacular.  Gorgeous when seen en masse, but they have proved to be a difficult plant for me.  Thanks to donations from friends (thanks Murrel!), I am trying them this year in several locations to see if I can find the "right spot".

Mertensia virginica

And just when you thought I could not find any more blue flowers, I bring you Scorpion-weed!  Phacelia bipinnatifida is a bit of a wanderer and you may regret having it in your yard, but certainly not while it is blooming!  What a gorgeous clump of blue it makes.  I have seen this plant mixing beautifully with red Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) in North Georgia along mossy streambanks.  I don't know how this got its common name, but it is certainly a weed that I would share with my friends.

Phacelia bipinnatifida
There - who knew there could be so many?  I'm sure there are a few that I left out, so perhaps you can think of a few more Georgia native blue wildflowers yourself.  Remember, Vinca does not count - it is NOT native.

1 comment:

  1. Hiya Ellen,

    I googled mertensia and arrived on your wonderful page.
    What a collection, beautifully photographed.