I recently read an excerpt from Allen Lacy's book, Home Ground, which is a compilation of delightful essays expounding on his horticultural experience. It is a wonderful book much in the fashion of Henry Mitchell's On Gardening. The title of this particular essay is 'Plumbago Blue' and Mr. Lacy states,
"Among the considerable numbers of things that separate Southern gardens and gardeners from their counterparts in colder regions of the United States is the prevalence of blue plumbago."
He is referring to Plumbago auriculata which is a gangly looking vine
with the truest blue flowers imaginable. Here in the New England garden, the substitute for this blue is the Hydrangea macrophylla which, until the introduction of 'Endless Summer', was a disappointment for most of New England as the flower buds are not winter hardy west of those areas of moderating coastal temperatures. As we all flocked to the summer shore and witnessed the brilliant, bold blue of those hydrangeas,
many of us purchased these shrubs from local nurseries with the promise of blue. Many of us were often disappointed as these shrubs would leaf out with abundance but fail to flower most seasons. I say most seasons because every few years there would be a slightly warmer winter or enough snow cover to protect the tender flower buds and the blue flowers would arrive albeit sporadically. This just added to the confusion of the novice gardener or non-gardener who planted these shrubs. Why the flowering some years and not others they would ask themselves not understanding the tenderness of the flower buds. A hydrangea which does not flower is a coarse, uninteresting blob in the border. Enter Hydrangea macrophylla 'Endless Summer'. Blooming on new wood, these shrubs produce new flower buds in the spring.
This year is an early, banner year for blooms and there will be many a red, white and blue flower arrangement on the Fourth of July table this year as the hydrangeas come into full bloom. Mine are planted in a border which is really in too much shade for optimal flowering. They are still blooming though and as most gardeners know, true blue is a coveted color for the garden. The Texans have their bluebonnets, the Southerners have their blue plumago
and we in the north now, consistently, have blue hydrangeas. I should also mention that due to Mr. Lacy's high praise of his blue plumbago, I recently picked one up to use in a container planting. I am admiring its' blue, phlox like flowers with their dark veining.
What blue do you have in your garden? Not purple, true blue.