Sunday, July 2, 2017

Summer Blues

I often say that we don’t have many native blue flowers but it suddenly hit me last week that my garden was overflowing with blue color in these early days of summer.  And then I remembered that I’d fooled myself once on this already when I published a blog about blue flowers in spring. Well, I’ll continue that theme, this time focusing on some of our summer blues.

Wild petunia (Ruellia caroliniensis)
With so many yellow summer flowers, it’s great to mix in some blues for contrast. I know some people like gardens with all one color, but I think that having different colors allows them all to pop in their own way (so please mix up your blues with other things!).

This month’s standout has been Carolina wild petunia (Ruellia caroliniensis). This is not a plant that I have ever planted on purpose, but it has come in with other things and then seeded around. The number of blooms has been fantastic and it is a host plant for the buckeye butterfly.

Prunella vulgaris ssp. lanceolata

A similar hitchhiker has been self-heal (Prunella vulgaris ssp. lanceolata). This member of the mint family is just as aggressive as its relatives, but the pollinators do love it. I used to think that it was not native, but this one with the lanceolate leaves does seem to be considered native. So I’ll just pull out the extras and leave some around. The bees do love it.

Another bee favorite is anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum). This is a perennial that acts more like an annual – it blooms for weeks and weeks. The goldfinches love the seeds on it, and the deer don’t care for it at all. Winner!

Stokesia laevis
Agastache foeniculum

Stokes’s aster (Stokesia laevis) is one of the prettiest shades of blue. It is native to south Georgia but is a wonderful garden plant throughout the state. It does like a little bit of moisture but mostly it just prefers not to dry out. My original plant died, but I’ve got a nice group now at the bottom of the driveway; the slope helps keep the area moist.

I’ve had downy skullcap (Scutellaria incana) for years but it’s always been a pale shade of purple. Last year, I got a few plants from a friend with deep purple blooms. I also have Scutellaria integrifolia, a more petite species that likes to seed around. I’ve had to relocate several of them out of the lawn so that they could grow up and bloom. Helmet flower is another common name.

Scutellaria incana
Lobelia spicata

A very soft blue can be found in palespike lobelia (Lobelia spicata). A deeper blue that we can still look forward to is great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica). The bees really love this one while the butterflies like its red cousin, cardinal flower (L. cardinalis). Downy blue lobelia  (L. puberula) is also pretty late. You can see pictures of all of them in my blog on lobelias.

Blue flowers that were not featured in the spring blog and which are past bloom now include the butterfly peas (Centrosema virginianum and Clitoria mariana). Sometimes those will bloom again but their first flush is over. The spring iris species such as Virginia iris (Iris virginica) and zigzag iris (Iris brevicaulis) were gorgeous this year, but I'll probably need to divide them before they take over certain areas.

If you don’t have enough blue in your garden, think about adding some of these. I think I’m going to have to stop saying we don’t have many blues. Obviously, we are doing fine!

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