The spring blues
I do not know what it is about the colour blue, but it seems some people just cannot get enough of it in the garden – including the Head Gardener. In fact, the first garden we made in our first shared house featured a blue and gold garden that was named after her beloved maternal grandmother. It featured a few of her favourite plants, a few of which we also grow in our garden here.
One that did not feature in that first garden but is a feature of our garden here is a blue Corydalis, one of those unusual beauties that combine the ferniest-looking leaved with subtle blue flower I have seen described as “curious shaped”. They certainly do have unusual shaped flowers, long tubes of mid blue, topped with white. The first of these to become very popular in New Zealand was a variety called ‘Pere David’, named after the great missionary plant hunter. There are lots of others varieties around, but they are all variations of the same theme – attractive filmy foliage, often with a silvery cast, topped with cool blue flowers.
These are natural woodland plants, and do their best in light shade, although I have seen them doing superbly well out in the open in gardens at the Dunedin Botanic Garden. Either way, they need moist soil with good drainage to be seen at their best. Although the blues are the most commonly grown varieties nowadays, there are other colours – yellow, white, pink and maroon types can be found, with the yellow and cream varieties perhaps being the strongest growing forms.
We have some forget-me-nots growing in the same bed as the Corydalis – no one could pretend that these are precious and delicate plants, but the softly-hued powdery blue flowers are surely as pretty as any. They can certainly get away a bit, seeding with abandon, but they are such a pretty soft blue, and they are easily enough weeded out.
There are improved strains around, which are mainly smaller and more compact in growth while retaining the same blue flowers. They look great in bedding situations but I think the taller varieties look better in the garden.
If you like forget-me-not flowers there are a number of similar but slightly different species and strains around. I am a great fan of the lovely silver foliaged Brunnera ‘Looking Glass.’ This is one for the open garden with relatively large leaves of a shiny silvery hue, and makes a wonderful foliage statement in the perennial garden. But at this time of the year, it has a bright bonus – masses of bright blue flowers, not large but carried in good numbers. I have this in rich moist soil and it does very well, increasing nicely.