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Garden Delights

A selection of thoughts and ramblings about life in the garden.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The Best of the Blues

And the winner is...

Veronica spicatica

No specific cultivar. Just the blue ones.

This lovely plant starts blooming early to midsummer, and just keeps going, and going and going...

Kind of like the energizer bunny.

It's no wonder it was the 1993 Perennial Plant of the Year.

Veronica has lance shaped leaves with serrated edges, ranging from a dull grey green to a rich deep green. But it's the blue shades that really catch they eye.

Veronica's flower spikes are held high above the foliage in the most wonderful shades of blue. My personal favorite is what I believe is 'Sunny Border Blue', but I'm not positive on the cultivar. It is the richest deep blue in my yard. Kind of a cross between navy and royal blue. It looks stunning paired with a yellow.

The spikes bloom from the bottom up and keep getting longer and longer as they bloom. The spikes themselves can form interesting shapes as they elongate and sometimes split into multiple spikes. As the main spike blooms, a myriad of side blooms also form. And keep blooming, and blooming, and blooming. If you clip off the spikes once they finally stop blooming, more will form, giving you that glorious continual shade of blue well into fall.

Veronica is not a picky plant. It is happy in sun or part shade, and survives drought conditions well. There are many colors of Veronica, and shapes and sizes too, ranging from ground covers to very tall. It is well behaved and does not re-seed at will. It is, however, easy to propagate in spring by cuttings. Simply take a new shoot in spring, cut it off, strip the lower leaves, and keep in moist soil until roots form.

Every garden should have at least one Veronica.

But I do have to give two other plants honorable mention when it comes to blue.

And both are common weeds.

Spiderwort and chicory.

The baby blue of chicory is simply lovely, most often seen growing on the roadside in a stunning display with queen-anne's-lace. An herb most often grown as a coffee substitute, it has escaped to grace the ditches with a wave of blue. This is a now you see it, now you don't plant. The blooms are open in the morning, and closed in the afternoon. It can grow to be a tall coarse plant, so it's not well suited for the typical garden. But if you have that wild area...

My other favorite blue is Spiderwort, tradescantia virginiana. This wildflower will grow in sun or shade (though it's floppy in shade), wet or dry conditions. It will keep producing blue-violet flowers all summer long. While not as neat or showy as some of the cultivars, I've found it to bloom longer and it does not usually go dormant in the summer. It can get a bit floppy without something to hold it up, and it does tend to pop up around the garden on it's own, so it's not for the picky gardener. Picky people should try the more modern cultivars.


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