CLEOPATRA: Is it true that when Caesar caught you on that island, you were painted all over blue?
BRITANNUS: Blue is the color worn by all Britons of good standing. In war, we stain our bodies blue; so that though our enemies may strip us of our clothes and our lives, they cannot strip us of our respectability.
- from Caesar and Cleopatra, by George Bernard Shaw
I may not seek to maintain my respectability by painting my body blue, but I do love blue flowers. Blue is so serene and tranquil in the garden, and makes a satisfying contrast to yellows, pinks, and reds. There are many fine blue flowers from all over the world, but my favorites tend to be from here in the American Midwest.
Speaking of which, here are my five favorite blue flowers from this region.
Straight species Anise Hyssop (with Yellow Coneflower and Joe Pye Weed in the back).
Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum). An extremely tough and adaptable plant, great for pollinators and goldfinches. It’s only serious fault in my experience is a tendency to flop in fertile soil – it may require a lot of staking and/or cutting back to keep it upright. Also, it self sows like crazy, in case that bothers you. I should point out that most cultivars of this genus (like ‘Blue Fortune’ or ‘Honeybee Blue’) are hybrids of North American and exotic species.
Aromatic Aster with Anise-Scented Goldenrod
Aromatic Aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolius). This aster tends to stay relatively compact and wants full sun and dry to medium soil. Completely covered with blue daisies in the fall. There are some really nice cultivars, but I only have the straight species.
Harebell with Lanceleaf Coreopsis
Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia). A native American bellflower that does well on drier, sunny sites. Harebell is low-growing and self-sows moderately. Blooms over a long period in summer.
Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica). How can you look at this flower and not fall in love? In Chicago the blue flowers usually appear in May. Spreads by root and seed, so that a few in time will turn into many. And how can that be bad? Only drawback is that it turns raggedy and eventually disappears after blooming, so it needs to be mixed with other plants.
Culver’s Root ‘Fascination’
Culver’s Root ‘Fascination’ (Veronicastrum virginicum). Some would say that I’m cheating since, as a cultivar, ‘Fascination’ is not a real native. To these people I say: phooey. Anyhow, this is a really nice plant. Tall (4-5′) and generally needs staking in my garden. Another big favorite for pollinators that blooms in mid-summer.
So those are my top five. Do you have any favorite blue flowers?