Monday, October 24, 2011

I nearly got the blues!

Last week I wrote about an All Black garden – and for a while this weekend I thought I was going to have to describe a garden full of the blues – “Les Blues” certainly had this gardener’s heart in his mouth for far too many minutes on Sunday evening!
Actually, a blue garden would not be a bad thing, but there are blues and blues, so you would need to be careful about which ones you mixed in, keeping the pink blues away from the true blues.  When the Head Gardener and I first established our combined garden last century we fairly quickly came to the conclusion that it might be a good idea if we had our own separate parts of the garden.  I had lived on my own for a while, and had discovered a passion for gardening and wanted a different sort of garden to her.  One of her first gardens was a blue and yellow creation.
I was thinking about that the other day, when my neighbour popped her head through the hedge that divides our gardens, grasping a flower in her hand, asking what it was.  She thought it might be a member of the bluebell family, but it looked unlike most bluebells she had seen.
She was right – it is a bluebell, one with one of the funniest botanical mix ups you can imagine.  When Carl Linnaeus, the man who invented the binomial system of botanical naming, was first shown this bluebell, he asked where it had come from.  He was told it had come from Spanish ship called the Peru, so he called it Scilla peruviana, and for the next 350 years people have assumed it comes from South America.  It is actually a wild plant of Spain and Portugal, glorying under the “official” common name of Portuguese Squill, although it is also called the Hyacinth of Peru, Peruvian Scilla, or Cuban Lily.
It is a clump forming bulb which tries to retain some leaves over winter, and in the spring slowly pushed up strong racemes of purple blue flowers in late spring.  It is very hardy and is a great plant for the front of the border.  It can also be naturalised but it is not easily come by in the trade so you might need to look around for it.
I saw masses of it last week, as I wandered around Napier’s hillside cemetery one warm evening.  As well as the more common blue form there were also some clumps of the white form, which probably stood out as bit better in the evening light.

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