On Having the Blues

THIS MONTH, my garden has a case of the blues. I’m talking about blue Platycodon, blue Ageratum (pictured above), blue cranesbill geraniums, and…well, just have a look at this photo gallery, okay?

At the base of my Serpentine Garden is  Buddleja davidii. In mid-July, this majestic grower  flaunts fat panicles of lavender-blue. The panicles are so utterly fragrant that I can’t help but linger near the shrub just to inhale the strong, honeyed air. And I’m not the only one who swoons over the plant — hummingbirds and all kinds of colorful insects  have “Buddja Bash” every day. To insure continuous bloom, I regularly deadhead the spent flowers.

Also in the Serpentine Garden is Platycodon ‘Sentimental Blue.’  Several years ago, I winter-sowed the seeds of this perennial “Balloon Flower.” I can tell you the plant flourishes even in fairly dense shade.

Platycodon is a source of constant amusement.  As you can see, its flowers start out as puffed-up pillows, or balloons.

The balloons open into  5-petalled stars of violet-blue. The petals are richly veined in dark purple.  The pistol, which is cloaked in creamy white, has a true-blue tip.  Now that’s what I call sex-appeal! As with buddleja, be sure to deadhead departed blossoms if you want a summer-long Platycodon display.

No flower offers more tranquility than Centaurea cyanus. I winter-sowed these “Bachelor Buttons” last January, and then planted the young seedlings at the end of a raised bed in my Kitchen Garden. They have been flowering steadily since mid-June. Only during periods of intense heat do they slow down.

I slow down during periods of high heat, too.

This year, I used blue Ageratum to edge the the front of the Kitchen Garden. Yes, this summer annual is rather common. But it is also un-commonly beautiful.

If you have ageratum in your garden, consider, in July,  layering one of its stems . The stem if kept moist will form roots in about 2 weeks’ time. Cut from the parent plant, and set in a 4-inch pot of good soil, the rooted youngster can be brought indoors before frost. In a cool south or east window, the plant will send up blue-grotto tufts all winter long. I’m speaking from experience here.

‘Rozanne,’ a violet-blue cranesbill-geranium, is a constant delight. Located next the hedge of dwarf lilacs in the Serpentine Garden, and planted in rather poor, dry soil, it somehow manages to increase in size and beauty with every passing summer. Should the flowers cease in mid-summer, I encourage a new crop by simply cutting the plants back to 3 inches of growth.

The dark blue, large-flowered Clematis ‘Jackmanii’ brings architectural interest to my otherwise plain white  potting shed. I used 2-inch staples to train the vines up the clapboard wall. There, in the mostly sunless northern location, it blooms to my surprise with utter exuberance.  It makes an attractive backdrop, too, for a group of pink ‘Star Gazer’ lilies.

Meanwhile,  Clematis ‘Anna Louise’ offers  violet-blue exuberance from her trellis in the Rose Garden. While the Japanese beetles are busy making mince meat out of my roses, they have left the clematis alone. I’m seriously considering giving my rose beds over to a clan of clematis.

Don’t breathe a word of this to my roses.

A denim-colored Calibrachoa (whose name escapes me) brings both cool comfort and sweet perfume to an urn in my Kitchen Garden.  Calibrachoas, like all container-grown plants,  require water at least once each day, and food — without fail! — every day. I feed mine  with a high phosphorous blossom-booster.

And finally, who can resist the old-fashioned morning glory? I certainly can’t. Moving with the speed of Jack’s beanstalk, this Ipomoea purpurea is turning the fence in my Herb Garden into a wall of ‘Heavenly Blue.’ Although the flowers close up during the daytime heat of July and August, by late September they remain open all day (they prefer cool weather just as I do). I sometimes float the flowers in a crystal bowl for an indoor table “bouquet.”

Are you a fan of blue flowers, too?  You can let me know by leaving a comment.

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Related Posts:
Now in Bloom: February, 2012
Now in Bloom: March, 2012
Now in Bloom: May, 2012


  1. Jeanne Collins says:

    My mexican wild plum trees are loaded with fruit! I see a big batch of plum preserves in my future!

  2. Jeanne – Congratulations!

  3. Hi Kevin,

    Sorry to hear about your Japanese beetles.

    I have heard that by controlling the grubs, you can control Japanese beetles.
    I am sure there are American sources, here is a Canadian source, which ships to USA.

    Maybe it would help control them.

    Good Luck and thank you for a beautiful blue posting.

  4. just glorious!

  5. So soothing; it’s heavenly!

  6. Thank you for sharing this blue gorgeousness – from mid winter NZ.

  7. Kevin, I love your newsletters and pictures. I live in the desert inland side of San Diego, CA. Dry and hot here, so I really enjoy your cool green garden. My water bill would be $600+ if I tried to grow those wonderful plants. Thank you for sharing with us..

  8. June Coady says:

    Your “blues” are not only beautiful beyond words, they fill me with envy. I always have blue lobelia in my yard and have a marvels “lace cap” blue hydrengia bush that is about 5 ft. tall now. It was a birthday gift in a gal container not that many years ago. It is one of my pride and joys. Thank you for your gift of showing us your “blues”. They are the only kind of blues anyone should have. Who could be sad when surrounded with such beautiful.

  9. abigail says:

    Enchanting. I’m crazy about blues. Have you tried the exquisite truly-blue Meconopsis Betonicifolia (blue poppy)? Has an adorable yellow center. Not that I have– only seen them in a book. Wish I had the seed… loved your Cosmopolitan, too.

  10. Holly Rose says:

    In northeast Florida, our blues are generally Plumbago and Blue Daze, both the sort of flowers able to truly tolerate the brutally intense summer weather. Thanks so much for the lovely blues of your garden!

  11. I am in Michigan Zone 5. How can I stop the insects from eating my beautiful annuals and perennials? I want to make my own organic and not use chemical pestisides. There has been a copper colored beetle( Japanese)? on the plants many times. Does anyone have a recipe that I can make myself? Thanks, Paula

  12. Kevin – In my sideyard right now, the Johnson’s Blue Geraniums (perennials) are in full bloom. So beautiful. I began with one plant some years ago, and now they’ve spread wonderfully, taking over a rather boring, lightly-shaded sideyard they share with earlier-blooming (almost through the snow!) blue/pink Pulmonaria.
    Love your photography – gorgeous!
    Nice, cooling fog along the Maine Coast today. My currants and gooseberries are happy and ripening quickly. Ate some luscious Red Currants yesterday, Black Currants not ready yet, but soon…………yes!
    Might make some Currant wine this year. Have you ever done that? Hints, please, if you have.

  13. Chris Nicholson says:

    I don’t have the blues you have shown us but I intend to get them for next year. They are
    really pretty.

    This year we have had very little rain–nothing measurable since June 1. 8 inches behind
    normal. What I have had my self and confirmed driving by a couple gardens I love this afternoon is early season blues (or to be accurate–blue violets) There are still a few larkspurs, self sown holdovers from previous years. I have deadheaded to keep them going but in the gardens I saw today they are still tall which makes me think they were sown in early spring of 2012. The other plant which provided pools of late spring early summer color were those two notorious root-runners–cluster bell flower (campanula glomerata) and ordinary ladybells (adenophora). Both of them were unusually prevalent this spring and I deadheaded them so they bloomed all the way down their stems. A colony of ladybells are still blooming in a shady border.

    My usual July flowers–classic daylilies and purple coneflower have been disappointing
    because they are mainly growing in places I haven’t been able to water at all. Thank goodness for native perennial sunflower. Here’s hoping for just a little rain, or more.


  14. Susan M. says:

    My favorite color…thanks for the great ideas for adding blues to my summer garden. Yours are spectacular!

  15. Beverly says:

    My blues include a relative of the bachelor button, the Montana Cornflower, whose blossoms are shaped like snowflakes in French blue. The reliable Plumbago groundcover, painfully dry under the eaves, still pours forth with blue flowers despite our drought. I also have two Nepetas, Walker’s Low and Blue Wonder, favored by bees of all kinds and very long-blooming.Also very easy to propagate from tip cuttings in April. I grow the perennial Ageratum which, along with Caryopteris, will bring those coveted blues to the late summer months. Perennial Ageratum has reddish tones in the stems, a lovely contrast to its bright green foliage and blue tufted flowers – about 24″ high. It was a flea market find for $2 a few years ago. Zone 6 southeast PA.

    I need to sign off now because the long awaited thunderstorms are HERE, FINALLY, with glorious lightning and drenching downpours for my wilting gardens.

    Thanks Kevin for all your hard work on this wonderful blog!

  16. Noelle Imparato says:

    Your variety of “blues” are a pure delight. Seriously considering trying to imitate you next year.

  17. I have always loved blue flowers in the garden, probably because a true blue is hard to find in a flower. Sadly, we have moved so frequently that I have to keep restarting my plant collections.When my 3 girls were young, they delighted in popping my Balloon Flowers (little rascals). I was not amused! One year for my birthday all I asked for were plants with blue flowers! It’s nice to have a birthday in late May, I always get gardening gifts!
    Thank you for all your advice and the beautiful photos. We’re lucky that you are such a good photographer!

  18. So beautiful Kevin. I loved looking at all of your gorgeous flowers. The colors are just fabulous! Unfortunately, we are already under water restrictions here in San Antonio, Texas and my plants are not doing so well this year. It is either small thunder showers or nothing. Right now, we can only water one day a week. They do allow us to hand water, which I do frequently but no water at all on weekends. I’ve noticed that many people in this area seem to be able to grow lemon trees quite easily. I did plant a peach tree in my back yard and it had so much fruit on it my boys and I had to prop it up but then the rain came. My yard is the low spot on the street so my backyard floods when it rains and I was told that my peach tree drowned! Still, I do have a small area that does not flood toward the back of my property, do you think it might be worth a try to plant another peach tree or maybe a lemon tree back there? Any thoughts would be appreciated? Thanks for sharing all those pictures, and I have to admit that I’m just a little jealous of ya’ll! My best,

  19. Susan Traynor says:

    For Paula. I’m in Michigan in zone 5 also. My guess, without seeing your bugs, is that they are Japanese beetles! That’s the bad news. The good news is there is something to do about it but as far as I know it won’t be coming out of your kitchen. There are nematodes that eat the larva in the ground. Those have to be applied before the beetles emerge so that’s for next year. Milky Spore also helps. You can find these products in a catalog or look online at GardensAlive.com
    For NOW, you can get Japanese Beetle traps at garden centers at Lowe’s or Home Depot without having to wait for shipping. If you decide on the traps just hang them away from the plants they are eating.

    Kevin: LOVE the information and photos you generously share! You are a true inspiration.

  20. Hey Kevin you need to grow Black and Blue Salvia. Also Patio Blue and Sky Blue. For all of these you can dig and save tubers indoors over the winter and plant again the next year. Similar to Dahlias. And they are blue! (love your blues!)

  21. Peggy Delson- Rini says:

    A gardening question Kevin. I am in love with an old fashioned plant called Chinese Lanterns.
    Where can I find them, I would love to add them to my garden.

    Peggy D.

  22. Peggy – In late February, you can order Chinese Lanterns from Easy to Grow Bulbs. I buy lots of bulbs from them every year — they are a reliable mail-order company.

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