Blue On Blue

Blue can be gentle and soothing or bold and brave – to make your garden complete go for the shades that suit you best.

Blue FlowersWhen considering using colour in the garden, balance is the key. Nature provides balance through the colour green, which is present to some extent in nearly every plant and which enhances the colour of the flowers. Each colour stimulates feelings and emotions that we may or may not be aware of.

Choosing Blue

Blue is associated with peacefulness and tranquillity. Its relaxing ambience is also highlighted by its association with ice and coldness. Blue colours, as with any other colours, work best when planted alongside their opposites on the colour wheel or their neighbours. This means that blue works well when planted alongside reds and oranges or planted alongside mauve.

DelphiniumSince winter is a time when many plants are dormant, and the season when we spend the least time in the garden, what could be more peaceful than peering out over a garden scene that encompasses blue flowers or foliage?

Using Blue

Blue has been used traditionally to create ‘garden rooms’ or areas of the garden with an emphasis on repose. Many famous gardens have ‘blue borders’, notably the one at Sissinghurst in England. The idea was to build a deep garden bed with low planting in the foreground and progressively higher foliage in the background. All the plants used would have blue, violet or lilac flowers (and occasionally white), so as to be soothing on the eye and hence the soul. For example, French lavender (Lavandula dentata), grape hyacinth (Muscari sp.), Liriope sp., Dianella sp., Pansies (Viola cornuta sp.) and Scaevola sp., could all be used in the foreground. Taller plantings toward the rear might include Agapanthus sp., Iris sp., and Delphinium sp.. Blue-flowering or foliaged shrubs, trees, or climbers (if there is a suitable backdrop) could complete the scene.

Blue Minimal‘Bee for Blue’

Birds are attracted to brightly coloured flowers such as reds and oranges. Bees are attracted to the blue-yellow area of the colour spectrum as they cannot see red.

Blue Foliage

Depending where you live, you may find it difficult to obtain plants that will produce blue flowers over winter. One way to overcome this is to look for bluish foliage plants most of which will be evergreen and thus retain their leaves over winter. The colour may be bluish-green (Metrosideros excelsus, New Zealand Christmas Bush), bluish-grey (Festuca ovina ‘Glauca’) or bluish-silver (Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca’.). All of these colours will bring light to the garden. The pale blue-greys of some conifers and gum trees will also add an ethereal quality to the garden, suggesting distance and infinity as they mimic the colours of distant hills on the horizon.

Other Blues

You do not have to restrict your blue colour scheme to flowers and foliage. You can use natural elements of the landscape. For example, a blue sky, blue water. If your winter sky is mostly grey, then you can create other areas of blueness by incorporating blue furniture, trellis, pots, mosaics or a painted blue wall. Just don’t overdo it. Too much of any single colour can destroy the effect you are trying to achieve.

The Meaning of Blue

As well as being symbolic of calmness and coldness, blue is also associated with healing and creativity. Throughout history blue has been used significantly in the stained glass windows of churches. The blue stone, lapis lazuli, has also been used extensively to cover the ceilings of pyramids where it represented divinity.

Here are some suggestions for adding blue plants to your winter garden:

Blue Bulbs

Blue AnnualsIris (Dutch Iris) — Bulbs with fine green leaves and blue iris flowers with a yellow centre in late winter-early spring. (White, mauve and yellow forms also available.)

Blue Annuals

Myosotis sylvatica (Forget-me-not) — Annual with clusters of small blue flowers in late winter-early spring. Can become invasive in other parts of the garden.

Viola (Pansies) — Small annuals with highly attractive blue flowers (many coloured forms available).

EvolvusBlue-Flowering Shrubs

Azalea — Medium sized shrubs with blue/mauve/purple colour varieties.

Hydrangea macrophylla — Shrub with broad green leaves and large rounded flower heads in summer. Acid soils produce the darker blue flowers (ranging to pink in alkaline soils).

Rhododendron ‘Blue Bell’ — Blue toned flower on long-lived shrub.

Blue Coloured Foliage

Agave attenuata ‘Nova 7' — Succulent plant with grey-blue hue foliage, very popular with landscape designers.

Eucalyptus gunnii (Cider Gum) — Highly ornamental gum, suited to cooler climates having grey-blue leaves.

Hebe glaucophylla — A dwarf compact plant with white flowers and pale blue-green leaves. It grows to 50cm and makes an ideal formal plant

Pimelea imbricata — A compact, erect shrub growing to around 0.5m, having pink or white spring flowers, and blue-grey leaves.

Senecio mandraliscae — A trailing succulent to 20cm high with cylindrical glaucous-blue leaves that are pointed at the ends. Produces clusters of white flowers.

Strelitzia reginae (Bird of Paradise) — these native Australian plants are truly ‘exotic’. They form large clumps up to 1m tall and produce spectacular bird-like flowers.

Bluish Conifers

Bluish ConifersThere are many conifers with bluish foliage, and many dwarf varieties available for the smaller garden or rockery. Conifers are suited much better to temperate climates, though some are suited to the subtropics.

Abies procera ‘Glauca’ — A pyramidal shaped conifer to more than 5m tall, with attractive pale-blue foliage. It prefers a fertile, moist, well-drained, acid soil.

Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca’ — Tall conifer to 35m or more with pale blue foliage. It is suited to large gardens and parks.

Chamaecyparis lawsonia ‘Allumni’ — Very attractive, narrow pyramid-shaped conifer to 10m or more, with pale blue foliage. It can be hedged.

Chamaecyparis lawsonia ‘Bleu Nantais’ — Dwarf form of the Lawson Cypress to 1.5m tall, with blue foliage.

Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Sanderi’ — Compact, dense-foliaged conifer to 2m tall, with pale blue foliage. Outer foliage may turn purplish in very cold weather.

Cupressus glabra — Quick growing, columnar or pyramid-shaped tree to 20m tall. It has pale blue to bluish-green foliage. The cultivar ‘Glauca’ has even bluer foliage.

Juniperus virginiana ‘Sky Rocket’ — Attractive, tall, narrow conifer to 5m tall.

Picea pungens ‘Glauca’ — Large tree eventually reaching 30 m or more (generally less in cultivation), with pale blue foliage. It is suited only to very large gardens or parks. The cultivar P. pungens ‘Kosteri’ has the outer parts of branches pendulous.

Picea pungens ‘Globosa’ — Globe-shaped, dwarf cultivar of the Colorado spruce to 1m tall.

Picea pungens ‘Montgomery’ — Very attractive, cone-shaped shrub to 1.5 m tall with blue-silver foliage.

 

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