There will never be enough blue flowers in the world for me to say “I have enough blue in my garden.” Blue for me ranges from the very pale sky and lavender blues all the way to the darkest royal and navy blues. The interplay of crisp whites and blues of all shades with the myriad colors of green foliage is what I see when I close my eyes and envision heaven! The only thing better than a blue flower is a blue flower that you can not only love for its color but for its hardiness, ability to hold its color is very hot sun and fill the role of a garden multi-tasker to boot. Today I am sharing two of my Best Blue Flowers Forever in hopes you’ll be inspired to add them to your garden where they will bring a smile to your face each day and reward you many times more than the investment you make in them.
The Sunset Western Garden Book tells us that there are more than 600 species of asters ranging from compact mounds to 6 foot tall loosely branched plants with blooms in shades of white, pink, blue and purple, mostly bearing a yellow center. I have never lived in an area where they were used to their full glory in perennial plantings but have seen countless photos of wide swathes of flowing plants dominating borders in the American northeast and in the UK. While I have only had a handful of species/varieties in my own gardens each has been a faithful performer. The retail nursery trade by in large dictates what we put in our yards and often they feel the need to stick to the ‘tried and true’ that they believe are familiar to the average gardener and will sell. This is where having an small independent plant passionate nursery in your area will benefit you so much in terms of garden diversity. Fortunately, A. x frikarti ‘Monch’ does fall in the tried and true category and thus is pretty commonly available even in the big box stores.
This aster is commonly called a Michaelmas Daisy. In cooler summered European climates it is an autumn bloomer and would be gathered from gardens to decorate churches around the 29th of September, Michaelmas Day, when harvest festivals take place. In my garden it blooms from late spring through frost or whenever I cut it back to rest during the short winter months. This hybrid was produced around 1918 by Swiss nurseryman Carl Frikart and was named, along with another one called ‘Eiger’, for the mountain peaks which were visible from his nursery. It fares best in full sun to part shade (the one pictures is in a full sun southern exposure with just a bit of shade from a small crape myrtle tree) in well drained, alkaline, average soil. Although many asters are plagued with powdery mildew this one is very resistant. The lavender-blue flowers are borne on long, loosely-branched arms which will wave a bit when there is a slight breeze. They are wonderful cut flowers–try adding their delicate daisy faces to mixed blossom bouquets. Its open habit does benefit from a bit of pinching back now and then. I find that even if I let it go too long and need to nip more aggressively it responds well. My full sun front beds tend to get a little tired as the long, hot summer wears on and the ‘Monch’ helps me out with its sprawling, loose habit in camouflaging some of its worse for wear neighbors. As I have them planted in beds on either side of my front walkway where their root balls are snugged up against the bases of the trunks of a couple of young crape myrtles, I can always tie them up a bit if the need arises. Mostly I just let them do their thing and often by mid September when everything else is gasping for cooler air and a drink of water, the asters are just rambling and scrambling along with little care. Other similar varieties you might run across to try would be Aster x frikarti ‘Jungfrau’ and ‘Wunder von Stafa’–both similar in color to the picture.
On to #2! I know you might be tired of hearing about geraniums–hardy geraniums–from me but they are so unknown by many that I don’t think there can be enough written about this marvelous group of plants. To recap, these are GERANIUMS, not the PELARGONIUMS that we commonly call geraniums. The European gardening community calls this group cranesbills and while you may now and then find a plant tag bearing that name in the US it has never caught on with us. Hardy geraniums are mostly perennial and in my zone 9 garden they will die back to the crown during the coldest of winters. They generally prefer soil more acidic than alkaline and need adequate water in hot summer areas. They range from full sun to full shade depending of the species and cultivar you choose.
This is geranium ‘Rozanne’, probably one of the most currently commercially available of the hardy geraniums. The above photo is a single plant which covers about about a 3 foot circle. ‘Rozanne’ was bred by Donald and Rozanne Waterer of the UK. Now and then you will see her marked as G. ‘Jolly Bee’ although in the garden patent world the patent on ‘Rozanne’ replaced that of ‘Jolly Bee’. This mounding sprawler is equally at home in the ground, in large containers or in hanging baskets. I have never been able to produce a photograph that does the blueness of the lavender justice. The blooms are at their most blue as they open and then fade to a more lavender shade. Research I have done on this plant suggest that the flowers or more lavender pink in hotter weather and more lilac blue in cooler climates. Given that I will probably never see the full extent of the blue hue! As with most hardy geraniums give her a slightly acidic, moist soil for best performance and some light afternoon shade in very hot summer areas. My ‘Rozanne’ is planted right in front of a fairly mature ‘Pink Elf’ hydrangea. The hydrangea is in too much sun as the summer progresses and sort of becomes a crispy mess. I let ‘Rozanne’ wander right over it providing some visual relief for me and a little sun screen for the plant. I tidy it up about halfway through the season by just gathering the plant up and whacking it off to about a foot and ‘Rozanne’ responds with fresh green foliage and a fresh profusion of flowers.
There you have it–two beautiful blues for you to become BFFs with. Garden on!