Pink ones are pretty, yellow most cheerful, red is joyous, and white, elegant. But blue, sky blue, flowers are sublime.
Mary Lovell-Smith sings the blues.
Not purple-y blue, pale blue, or even turquoise blue like the divine Ixia viridiflora. I mean the blue of the sky on a cloudless summer’s day and the blue of my sons’ eyes, clear, keen and fresh. My top sky blue flowers are small and resemble in form the so pretty but common (and bright blue) forget-me-not ( Myosotis sylvatica), that sweet and prolific harbinger of spring.
For colour and hardiness, it is hard to beat the perennial Anchusa azurea, especially ‘Loddon Royalist’. The flowers of this native of southern Europe across to Central Asia are an intense blue and create a glorious haze up to 90cm high above the slightly straggly foliage. With a spread of about 45cm, it is perfect for the mid-border, especially given that the bristly leaves are unpleasant to touch.
Flowering from late spring into summer, its willingness to thrive anywhere from light shade to full sun makes it a winner. Being tap-rooted, it prefers deep soils and tolerates drought. Cut back after the first flush of flowers and be rewarded with a second. Also available here is the taller Anchusa azurea ‘Dropmore’. Recommended, too, is the South African annual or biennial Anchusa capensis ‘Blue Angel’, which has vivid royal blue flowers and tends to be more compact and upright. This sun-lover tolerates hot spots and poor or dry soil.
Brunneras are grown for their heart-shaped and often coloured or patterned foliage.
macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ particularly wins admirers for its bright blue and again forget-me-not like, flowers up to 7mm across on stalks up to 50cm tall from August to December. Its silver foliage is attractive too, but remove it in autumn, or else it tends to rot most unattractively.
Native to the forests and banks of the Caucasus and northeast Turkey, Brunnera macrophylla prefers part or full shade and rich moist soil (once established it will tolerate moderate drought).
Cynoglossum amabile is often known as Chinese forget-me-not.
This hardy though short-lived perennial (biennial even) self-seeds readily, and is often treated as an annual. From spring to late autumn, a multitude of 6mm flowers flutter aloft 40cm stems.
Give it sun or semi-shade in well-drained soil, and never let it dry out, and you and it (and the bees and other beneficial insects) will develop a mutual love affair. Deadheading prolongs flowering.
Two varieties of omphalodes also have similar flowers and make gorgeous garden inhabitants.
The vigorous and perennial Omphalodes verna hails from Europe where it is found in damp mountain woods. It forms an evergreen mat with flowering stems up to 20cm tall bearing bright-blue 12mm flowers in spring. Like its Turkish cousin Omphalodes
cappadocica, it is happy in shade and moist, humus-rich soil. So dig in compost or leaf mould when planting and mulch in early spring.
In the garden, Omphalodes cappadocica is generally considered by many to be superior to Omphalodes verna, if only for its slightly larger flowers and also less creeping nature.
Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’.