My garden has the blues and I couldn’t be happier about it.
The full sun front garden is bursting with color in its second year of being, the blues not depressing either the garden or the gardener. I’m fond of blue flowers and grow several different species, most of which are native to Texas.
In this new garden I’ve planted five clumps of perennial Mealy Blue Sage ‘Henry Duelberg’, Salvia farinacea; all come from a plant I purchased years ago. This salvia is a late spring/summer/early fall bloomer and spreads by both seed and root. I should add that while it spreads, I don’t consider it aggressive; if a sprig pops up, it’s easy-peasy to yank out. It’s a dream to transplant: pull up a clump with roots, stick said clump in the ground, water a few times and it grows and blooms, beckoning the pollinators!
Mealy Blue Sage is favored by a wide variety of pollinators, like this honeybee. She is all-in for these small blooms.
Bigger pollinators, like this Black Swallowtail, Papilio polyxenes, are fans of the mealy blues, too.
Another blue that makes me cheerful is Indigo Spires, Salvia x ‘Indigo Spires’. This perennial is a hybrid cross of the native Salvia farinacea and Salvia longispicata. I planted this specimen in my back garden a couple of years ago where it received some afternoon sun, but when the front garden morphed to full sun, I moved it there where it would get most-of-the-day sunshine, be a happier plant, and bring on the blues. Indigo is bigger than the ‘Henry Duelberg’, with longer bloom spikes and larger leaves.
Many years ago when my back garden was full sun, I grew an Indigo Spires. In late summer and fall afternoons, there were often fifteen to twenty American Bumblebees working these blooms. Sadly, I haven’t seen that many bees on this plant, but the bees that are around definitely make a bee-line for these blues.
If there was an award for blues in the garden, I think it would go to the Blue Curls, Phacelia congesta. I didn’t mean to have so many this year and I should have culled some of the seedlings, but I am a softy. I have a hard time removing seedlings of desirable plants unless I have someone who will take them to another garden space. These are Texas annual wildflowers, so leaving them in place didn’t stress me too much as I knew that they’d be done with their show by mid-May when I could remove them, making room for the summer perennials.
When the Curls reached the zenith of their flowering, there was a constant gentle buzzing in the garden and movement throughout the garden’s air. Honeybees, Carpenter bees, a myriad of tiny native bees, skippers and larger butterflies all flock to partake of these charming blue-violet flowers.
A variety of beetles and leaf-footed bugs got into the act of working these sweet blue blooms! Everybody, it seems, loves Blue Curls.
As the Curls’ blooms faded and the seeds developed, migrating songbirds were in the garden from dawn to dusk. I witnessed Common Yellowthroats, Lincoln’s Sparrows, Clay-colored Sparrows and Lesser and American Goldfinches noshing on the seeds and, no doubt, some of the tiny insects that were also on the plants. As these migratory birds fly northbound from my garden, they’ll pass along seeds to other places for next year’s wildlife.
Blue Curls are a cornucopia for wildlife. The insect and bird song, color, and life that these blue beauties brought to the garden during March and April eclipsed all other plants in the garden.
That’s why I didn’t remove them!
In the back garden, things are shadier, but the blues reign. Another violet-blue flowering plant is the perennial Heartleaf Skullcap, Scutellaria ovata and it thrives in part-shade.
Velvety, grey-green foliage accompanies these diminutive blooms.
The grey-green stalks with fuzzy foliage appear in winter, fresh color against the freeze-rendered browns and tans. Heartleaf Skullcap spreads as a ground cover, adding blue bloom spikes atop the foliage from late spring through mid summer. Summer’s heat ends the blooms and fades the foliage; the plant eventually disappears. The gardener helps that process by shearing to the ground or pulling up the plant. Thick roots lie dormant in the soil, safe from the Texas heat, waiting patiently until cool winter, when it emerges with fresh stems and foliage, ready to grow and begin its cycle in the garden for a new season.
The pond’s water lilies are pink and yellow, but its bog plant, Pickerelweed, Pontederia cordata, rocks teeny violet-blue flowers borne on spiky stems. The plant sits in slow-moving water, blue spikes rise above luscious foliage.
Many of my blues suggest a liaison with lavender or violet, but this final blue is a true blue: spring and autumn blooming Majestic Sage, Salvia guaranitica.
This is the only non-native blue that I grow; its home base is in Central and South America. A gorgeous, rich blue, the plant is colorful in spring and autumn, choosing to rest during the sweltering summer months. Most of the bees that visit nectar steal, though my honeybees and some of the tiny native bees crawl deep into the blooms for their sweet treat.
I grow a few other blues that will sing their songs in late summer and fall. The blues in a garden are the kind of blues we should welcome–for their beauty and for what they provide for the wild things we share space with. Add some blues to your garden, you’ll be happy you did!