Blue Notes

Aconitum carmichaelii 'Arendsii' against Echinacea purpurea seedheads October 10 2010

The winter here in southeastern Pennsylvania has been relatively mild, but we’re still a long way from the lushness of summer, so it’s a good time to be looking at pretty pictures. Here’s a sampling of some of my favorite blue and purple-blue flowers and combinations.

First, a few portraits:

Allium caeruleum [A. azureum] June 15 2007

Above, blue onion or blue-of-the-heavens (Allium caeruleum or A. azureum); below, ‘Gerald Darby’ iris (Iris x robusta).

Iris x robusta 'Gerald Darby' May 28 2010

Anchusa azurea June 1 2009

Above, Italian alkanet (Anchusa azurea); below, Salvia macrophylla.

Salvia macrophylla October 2 2009

Caryopteris x clandonensis 'Summer Sorbet' September 17 2007

A couple of blue mist shrubs: above, Caryopteris x clandonensis ‘Summer Sorbet’; below, C. incana ‘Jason’ (Sunshine Blue).

Caryopteris incana 'Jason' (Sunshine Blue) September 23 2005

Caryopteris divaricata August 23 2009

Above, bluebeard (Caryopteris divaricata); below, Twilite Prairieblues false indigo (Baptisia x varicolor ‘Twilite’) against blue false indigo (B. australis).

Baptisia x varicolor 'Twilite' (Twilite Prairieblues) against Baptisia australis May 23 2010

Geranium 'Brookside' with Salvia 'Caradonna' against Baptisia 'Screamin' Yellow' May 23 2010

Above, ‘Brookside’ hardy geranium (Geranium); below, ‘Hopleys Variegated’ dayflower (Commelina tuberosa [Coelestis Group]) – from Plant World Seeds.

Commelina tuberosa (Coelestis Group) 'Hopleys Variegated' October 1 2011

And now, some of my favorite blue-based combinations, starting with blue paired with pink.

Veronica grandis with Achillea 'Pink Grapefruit' and Callirhoe involucrata June 20 2011

Above, Veronica grandis with ‘Pink Grapefruit’ yarrow (Achillea) and winecups (Callirhoe involucrata).

Below, ‘Ultramarine’ forget-me-not (Myosotis sylvestris) with ‘Ingwersen’s Variety’ bigroot geranium (Geranium macrorrhizum) and ‘Stairway to Heaven’ Jacob’s ladder (Polemonium reptans).

Myosotis sylvestris 'Ultramarine' with Geranium macrorrhizum 'Ingwersen's Variety' and Polemonium reptans 'Stairway to Heaven' May 17 2009

Agastache 'Blue Fortune' with Ceratotheca triloba July 19 2009

Above, ‘Blue Fortune’ hybrid hyssop (Agastache) with South African foxglove (Ceratotheca triloba).

Below, Gentiana triflora var. japonica with ‘Limerock Passion’ coreopsis and ‘Silvery Sunproof’ lilyturf (Liriope muscari).

Gentiana triflora var. japonica with Coreopsis 'Limerock Passion' and Liriope muscari 'Silvery Sunproof' July 24 2009

Iris pallida 'Variegata' with Rosa 'Guinevere' May 28 2011

Above, variegated sweet iris (Iris pallida ‘Variegata’) with ‘Guinevere’ rose, southernwood (Artemisia abrotanum), and campion (Silene dioica).

Below, ‘Trehane’ speedwell (Veronica prostrata) with ‘New Hampshire Purple’ bloody cranesbill (Geranium sanguineum) and Wine and Roses weigela (Weigela florida ‘Alexandra’).

Veronica prostrata 'Trehane' with Geranium sanguineum 'New Hampshire Purple' and Weigela florida 'Alexandra (Wine and Roses) June 4 2005

Wow, isn’t blue and yellow together just gorgeous? Here are a bunch more variations on the same theme.

Nepeta 'Walker's Low' with Sedum rupestre 'Angelina' May 19 2006

Above, ‘Walker’s Low’ catmint (Nepeta) with ‘Angelina’ sedum (Sedum rupestre).

Below, Chocolate Chip ajuga (Ajuga reptans ‘Valfredda’) with ‘Axminster Gold’ Russian comfrey (Symphytum x uplandicum) and ‘Queen of Night’ tulip.

Ajuga reptans 'Valfredda' (Chocolate Chip) with Symphytum x uplandicum 'Axminster Gold' and Tulipa 'Queen of Night' May 6 2011

Geranium pratense 'Dark Reiter' with Melissa officinalis 'All Gold' June 20 1011

Above, ‘Dark Reiter’ geranium (Geranium pratense) with ‘All Gold’ lemon balm (Melissa officinalis).

Below, Jacob’s ladder (Polemonium caeruleum) with a baby ‘Gold Cone’ juniper (Juniperus communis) and honesty (Lunaria annua).

Polemonium caeruleum with Juniperus communis 'Gold Cone' and Lunaria annua May 15 2008

Agastache 'Blue Fortune' with Achillea 'Anblo' (Anthea) July 16 2009

Above, ‘Blue Fortune’ hybrid hyssop (Agastache) with Anthea yarrow (Achillea ‘Anblo’).

Below, perennial flax (Linum perenne) with Euphorbia oblongata (E. palustris ‘Zauberflote’) and cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) against ‘Sunshine’ western red-twig dogwood (Cornus sericea subsp. occidentalis).

Linum perenne with Euphorbia oblongata, Cynara cardunculus, and Cornus sericea subsp. occidentalis 'Sunshine' May 26 2008

iris pallida 'Variegata' with Alchemilla mollis and Symphytum x uplandicum 'Axminster Gold' May 26 2008

Variegated sweet iris (Iris pallida ‘Variegata’) is perfect for blue-and-yellow combos: above, with lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis) and ‘Axminster Gold’ comfrey (Symphytum x uplandicum); below, with an underplanting of ‘Goldwell’ speedwell (Veronica prostrata).

Veronica prostrata 'Goldwell' with Iris pallida 'Variegata' May 21 2008

And last, my favorites: blues with whites and silvers.

Caryopteris x clandonensis with Salvia argentea, Leucanthemella serotina, and Salix alba var. sericea September 17 2007

Above, blue mist shrub (Caryopteris x clandonensis) with silver sage (Salvia argentea), Leucanthemella serotina, and silver willow (Salix alba var. sericea).

Below, ‘Bluebird’ smooth aster (Symphyotrichum laeve) and hyssop-leaved thoroughwort (Eupatorium hyssopifolium).

Symphyotrichum laeve 'Bluebird' with Eupatorium hyssopifolium September 29 2010

Geranium 'Gerwat' (Rozanne) with Cornus sericea 'Silver and Gold' July 26 2009

Rozanne geranium (Geranium ‘Gerwat’): above, winding up through ‘Silver and Gold’ yellow-twig dogwood (Cornus sericea); below, with ‘Caradonna’ sage (Salvia) and ‘Cramer’s Plum’ love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena).

Geranium 'Gerwat' (Rozanne) with Salvia 'Caradonna' and Nigella damascena 'Cramer's Plum' June 1 2006

Salvia 'Caradonna' with Iris pallida 'Argentea Variegata' and Salvia argentea May 26 2008

Above, ‘Caradonna’ sage with white-variegated sweet iris (Iris pallida ‘Argentea Variegata’) and silver sage (Salvia argentea).

Below, Dutch iris ‘Rendezvous’ with Ornithogalum magnum.

Dutch iris 'Rendezvous' with Ornithogalum magnum May 28 2011

Lavandula x intermedia 'Provence' with Thymus pseudolanuginosus, Stipa tenuissima, and Hydrangea arborescens June 30 2008

Above, ‘Provence’ lavender (Lavandula x intermedia) with woolly thyme (Thymus pseudolanuginosus), Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima), and smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens).

Below, ‘Blue Horizon’ flossflower (Ageratum) with ‘Snow Fairy’ bluebeard (Caryopteris divaricata).

Ageratum 'Blue Horizon' with Caryopteris divaricata 'Snow Fairy' September 28 2009

Consolida ambigua with Gypsophila paniculata and Rosa 'New Dawn' June 13 2008

Larkspur (Consolida ambigua): above with baby’s breath (Gypsophila paniculata) and ‘New Dawn’ rose; below with ‘Jade Frost’ sea holly (Eryngium planum).

Consolida ambigua with Eryngium planum 'Jade Frost' June 27 2008

Brugmansia 'Snowbank', Kale 'Redbor', Stipa tenuissima, Gomphrena globosa 'Buddy White', Veronica, Stenotaphrum secondatum 'Variegatum', Cornus sericea 'Cardinal (variegated sport), and Agastache 'Blue Fortune' August 29 2006

Above, ‘Snowbank’ angel’s trumpet (Brugmansia) with ‘Redbor’ kale, Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima), ‘Buddy White’ globe amaranth (Gomphrena globosa), a speedwell (Veronica), variegated St. Augustine grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum ‘Variegatum’), a variegated sport of ‘Cardinal’ red-twig dogwood (Cornus sericea), and ‘Blue Fortune’ hybrid hyssop (Agastache).

Below, ‘Sarastro’ bellflower (Campanula) with Lorraine Sunshine oxeye (Heliopsis helianthoides ‘Helhan’).

Campanula 'Sarastro' with Heliopsis helianthoides 'Helhan' (Lorraine Sunshine) June 8 2006

Baptisia australis with Persicaria polymorpha May 23 2010

Above, blue false indigo (Baptisia australis) with giant fleeceflower (Persicaria polymorpha).

Below, amethyst flower (Browallia americana) with ‘Snow Fairy’ bluebeard (Caryopteris incana).

Browallia americana with Caryopteris incana 'Snow Fairy' August 10 2008

Anagallis monelli with Helichrysum italicum and Thymus vulgaris August 14 2008

Above, blue pimpernel (Anagallis monelli) with curry plant (Helichrysum italicum) and common thyme (Thymus vulgaris).

And to finish, ‘Jolly Bee’ geranium with ‘Souvenir d’Andre Chaudron’ catmint (Nepeta sibirica), ‘Icicle’ spike speedwell (Veronica spicata), and ‘Becky’ Shasta daisy (Leucanthemum x superbum).

Geranium 'Jolly Bee' and Nepeta sibirica 'Souvenir d'Andre Chaudron', Veronica spicata 'Icicle', and Leucanthemum x superbum 'Becky' July 12 2006

26 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by kate patrick on February 18, 2012 at 10:48 pm

    So many different shades of blue and all so lovely! Caryopteris ‘Snow Fairy’ caught my eye too with that delicate varigation. I really liked ‘Dark Reiter’ as well…very smokey and mysterious appearing. I am going to have to google some of the plants you show here as I am not familiar enough with them to know if they are annuals or perennials, the anagallis for instance. Thanks for reminding us that summer is only a few months away and that it really WILL come! I always feel a bit desparate this time of year.

    Hey, Kate – sorry I didn’t think to mention whether the plants are annual or perennial; that would have been useful to readers. I’m glad you enjoyed it anyway!
    -Nan

  2. Posted by rkruvand on February 18, 2012 at 11:03 pm

    Is that Monkshood at the top of the page?

    Yep, that’s Aconitum carmichaelii. By the way, if you put your cursor over any image, you should be able to see complete ID information.
    -Nan

  3. Posted by Laurie B. on February 19, 2012 at 12:15 am

    Nan, This is a post after my own heart! I adore all the beautiful photos and plant combinations. Do you allow Pinterest? I would love to add some of these to my design board to help me with my garden when it comes time to face the nurseries and catalogs and I get all giddy with plant lust. Thanks for all your great posts.

    Hi Laurie! Yes, Pinterest is ok, as long as you link to the images here. I’ve noticed a few people copying photos to their own blog or photo archives and linking to those, and that’s not cool. Thanks so much for asking!
    -Nan

  4. Posted by Lisa at Greenbow on February 19, 2012 at 6:10 am

    It is “that” time of year Nan when we crave these beautiful colors and forms. It won’t be long now.

    Spring certainly has been early here, Lisa. I don’t remember doing so much weeding in any other February.
    -Nan

  5. Nan! I love love love those blues! Has anyone else noticed that the English call many purple flowers blue? It’s not just my imagination, is it? We actually have different colors -colours;) – in our minds when we say “blue flower” – you can tell when looking at British websites or seed catalogs… For all English speakers the blue poppy *IS* blue, as is Commelina coelestis and blue pimpernel – nobody could call them violet or anything else – but a lot of what I, as an American, would call mauve or light purple or violet or somethig else the English call “blue” – and when they are here in the garden and see some purples they sometimes say “What beautiful blue flowers you have! I now know to just smile, and not ask “Where? – what blue flowers? Those are purple!”

    You have a good point, Clark. I think it’s partly an issue of comparison, for me, at least. When I see the irises I’ve shown here, for instance, I think “blue,” until I see the Commelina or the Anagallis and realize the difference. Putting these all together really made the differences apparent.
    -Nan

  6. Posted by Brenda Rose on February 19, 2012 at 6:17 am

    Dark purple has always been my favorite color in the garden. And although garden writers like to call them “blue”, ask any grade school kid what color it is, and they will say “purple”. Granted,you actually have some true blue flowers (like the anchusa and salvia). True blue flowers are quite rare in the garden, and a special treat.

    Your photos are lovely, as always. You show so many combinations I would think you must have 10 acres under cultivation. Any idea how many different plants you grow?

    I just love the larkspur and baby’s breath combination, those little dots of white contrast sharply with the deep purple, and yet highlight the white eye of the larkspur. Does your larkspur reseed for you or do you start it from seed every year.

    That commelina looks so similar to spiderwort, and a true blue.

    Love your garden!

    That’s why I included “and purple-blue” in the lead-in, Brenda: If I’d only included the “true” blues, it would have been a very short post! I don’t think it’s just garden writers who call some purples “blue,” as noted in Clark’s comment below; I notice that even non-gardening visitors do that.

    No idea how many different plants I have, or how many have come and gone in the last 10+ years. The larkspur does self-sow now, from a mix of colors I scattered a few years ago. I keep trying to get rid of the washy pink ones and seem to be having some success.
    -Nan

  7. Posted by Susan Gilmour on February 19, 2012 at 7:36 am

    Good morning Nan, love the post. I have tried to grow caryopteris here, it does extremely well the year planted, blooms gorgeously but doesn’t survive my cold March/April,snow melted and wind I guess. I have even seen buds on it but it doesn’t make it. Do you grow that ageratum from seed? I can’t find it in Canada. A few of the seeds you sent me are up, the cotton looks like blackish radish! and the streaked platycodon are up too, only about 1/8 “. I love to garden in the winter!
    Do you know Jodi Delong? She had a great talk yesterday about winter interest at the local Nursery. I told her you sent me seeds and I am going to donate some of the plants to her plant sale for the schorlship fund in honour of Capt Steele, our local Rhodo hero.

    Hi Susan. I have had mixed results with Caryopteris x clandonensis, but C. incana has been pretty reliable most years, to the point of the yellow-leaved kinds self-sowing. The ageratum self-sows too. The cotton seedlings *do* look like radish seedlings, don’t they? They’ll darken as they grow. And yes, I’ve been reading Jodi’s blog for years. Thanks for supporting her plant sale!
    -Nan

  8. Hi Nan!
    It never ceases to amaze me the depth and variety of plants you have in your garden! Gorgeous photos and combinations.Thanks for sharing.
    Barbara

    Hey you! Thanks for stopping by. I’m already making a list for our spring plant shopping.
    -Nan

  9. As always, so wonderful to be treated to these beautiful purple-blue flowers in your beautiful and unique way of presenting them. Thank you for sharing them with us. Here’s to a great new season of gardening.

    Wonderful to hear from you, Dorothy. In a way, it’s almost like the gardening season never ended this winter, with it being so mild. I never had witch hazel blooming in January before.
    -Nan

  10. Posted by Melanie on February 19, 2012 at 8:42 am

    Your pretty blue/yellow combos have inspired me. Last year I painted the shutters on my house blue and the front door a golden yellow. I have blue flowers but need more yellow. Thanks for the ideas.

    That sounds lovely, Melanie. I’m very partial to yellow flowers myself, and fortunately, there are lots to choose from.
    -Nan

  11. Sorry, I didn´t like the blue with the pink – it became too “sweet”. But the other combinations were lovely!

    I don’t recall making any of the pink-and-blue combinations on purpose, but I kind of liked them. I too prefer the other combos, though.
    -Nan

  12. Be still my heart! I always look forward to your posts, but this one is delicious eye candy. Some of my favorites I grow and a few to look for! Stop in and visit my site too when you get a moment.

    Thanks, Brooke. I’ll be sure to visit soon. Right now, the garden beckons!
    -Nan

  13. Well, I am in awe of your beautiful mixture of flowers…..so well-planned! I have copied so many plant names from your pictures that I must begin to save for them now in order to purchase when Ohio weather becomes warm again…….if I can find them in local nurseries. Thank you for this little “trip” into Spring on a cold Sunday morning.

    I appreciate the comment, Sharon, though you give me too much credit for planning these pairings; most were just happy accidents. If you have trouble finding any of the plants, don’t hesitate to ask: I may be able to tell you where I got them, or their seeds, at least.
    -Nan

  14. So many beautiful blues in your gardens. I adore it like most gardeners I expect. The Dark Reiter geranium is just gorgeous and I will have to add that to the never ending list. LOL! Thank you for all of these lovelies for today.

    I think it’s the yellow-leaved lemon balm behind the ‘Dark Reiter’ that really shows it off so beautifully. I imagine it would be nice with silver companions too.
    -Nan

  15. Thank you for the lovely February walk through the garden Nan. Viewing your pictures was a welcome respite on this cold and gloomy day.

    I’m glad to have brightened your day a bit, Debra!
    -Nan

  16. Posted by Kerry Sanders on February 19, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    We are in high summer here and I can’t help but compare your photos of lush, weedless swathes of colour and foliage to my own weedy nightmarish borders! We have had an astounding amount of rain for this time of year and the garden is growing like mad – I can’t keep up!

    That Dark Reiter geranium is gorgeous. And I’ve never seen/heard of the variegated comfry. Love it! Especially alongside the yellow stripy variegated iris. Do you grow the comfry from seed?

    Hey, Kerry. Remember, you’re looking mostly at closeups; one can hide a lot of weeds by shooting from the right angle.

    Sadly, no, ‘Axminster Gold’ doesn’t come true from seed; it must be propagated by division or stem cuttings.
    -Nan

  17. Posted by Katie on February 19, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    So many wonderful plants!! I especially loved the larkspur/sea holly combo! So dramatic!!

    I’m sorry to report that the sea holly didn’t make it past that year, but it sure was nice while it lasted – thanks to the dark background, especially.
    -Nan

  18. Your BLUES are AMAZING! Love them!

    I hope you liked the purples too!
    -Nan

  19. Nan,
    As always, your photos are amazing and the pairings are just beautiful. I just love the lavender, wooly thyme, feather grass and hydrangea with the bunny. The composition is so soft it seems to invite you in to nap right there on the wooly thyme. It’s almost cloud like. I love to see Hayefield in my inbox! Thank You.

    How nice, Sandi – thank *you*! The bunny does enjoy his little thyme lawn.
    -Nan

  20. I stopped by your blog for a dose of inspiration and motivation for both gardening and blogging. I’ve been on a hiatus while writing a fiction novel that was so much fun (and now I must gather my courage to try to find an agent…that part feels too much like work).

    Blue/purple with yellow/gold always works for me! Your garden vignettes are glorious.

    Good for you, Freda – that’s a terrific accomplishment! What a great way to spend the winter. I hope you have good luck finding an agent.
    -Nan

  21. Well, I guess blue does go with everything. Such wonderful combinations beautifully captured.

    Thanks so much, Carolyn!
    -Nan

  22. One could never have the blues after looking at these.

    Heh – apparently I don’t have the blues either, Layanee.
    -Nan

  23. I was feeling a little blue this morning since I’m learning to live with some health issues. — until I read your post. Your beautiful creations and photography are inspiring. I’ll go out to the garden today and make a plan to add some blues to my garden.. (I am fortunate to have friends who volunteer to do the things I can no longer do in my garden.) Thank you for another gorgeous and informative post.

    Good to hear from you, Marie. I’m so glad that you have friends to help you keep your garden going. I wish you a great growing season!
    -Nan

  24. It’s probably no secret that I absolutely adore blue and purple in the garden…I really can’t get enough of either! I really need to remember to try to find ‘Dark Reiter’, that rich, saturated color is just amazing…especially paired with the lemon balm behind it…really sets it off just perfectly. I really love that South African Foxglove paired with the Agastache…the similar spiky forms, but different (yet complimentary) colors are just wonderful. Your photo of the ‘Limerock Passion’ Coreopsis makes me want to try them…I seem to remember when they first came out, people had trouble with them lasting more than a season…but I think that’s been remedied, to a degree…and that color is stupendous!

    Hey, Scott! None of the ‘Limerock’ coreopsis are hardy for me, but the colors are so terrific that I have no problem using them as annuals.
    -Nan

  25. Wonderful photos, Nan, as always. How does that Sarastro campanula do for you? I’ve considered it many times, but Kansas heat and humidity generally don’t suit bellflowers. Mighty tempting though.

    Thanks, Tom! I’m actually pretty impressed with ‘Sarastro': it’s lasted here 4 or 5 years now (about 4 times longer than most campanulas), in a site with pretty heavy soil, though it’s also right next to a gravel path. I imagine your summers are even hotter than ours, but our PA summers can be very humid, so maybe you’d want to give this one a try.
    -Nan

  26. Posted by Sue Ellen on March 9, 2012 at 8:56 am

    Such wonderful combinations. There are several I would like to try. I even have several of the plants but they just aren’t together.

    Well, we’re heading into a great time for transplanting, so maybe some plant-moving is in order? Have fun!
    -Nan

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