I found myself wandering around the garden yesterday with a wheelbarrow full plants in need of a new home – a lonely blue star juniper, a beautiful blue scabious just starting to bloom and several sections of a blue hosta. The question was, where should I put them? Sound familiar?
I spend a lot of my time helping homeowners who have done too much plunking over the years. You know – plunk it here, plunk it there. There's a hole – plunk.
My philosophy is simple – have a reason for putting plant A with plant B (and "because there was a space" does NOT count as a reason!)
Blue is an easy color to blend into the garden, looking as much at home with delicate pastels as with jewel tones. I especially like to see it being used to break up what can easily become a monotonous purple and chartreuse color scheme. Add a little blue in there and suddenly it seems fresh.
I wanted something different and I found it; BLACK and blue. I'll spare you the obvious puns about bruises.
I first noticed how well black and blue went together when I planted blue bellflowers (Campanula persicifolia) in front of a stand of inky black bugbane (Cimifuga racemosa 'Hillside black beauty). The bellflower brought out the blue tones within the black foliage while the flower color seemed more vibrant when seen against its dark companion. It became one of those gardening 'Aha' moments.
So the scabious and hostas got tucked in next to a mature group of bugbane and my blue star juniper is going to front a stand of 'Passionate' cape fuchsias (Phygelius recta) which has remarkable black stems and dark greeny-black foliage topped by orange fuchsia-like flowers which already have us on the hummingbird radar for miles around!
As with any plant combination, start with great foliage and you're half way there.
Ideas for shady sites.
Include some of these in containers for close-up appreciation; 'Midnight blue' wishbone flower (Torenia sp.) is a favorite of mine and looks wonderful mingling with black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens').
Other shade loving black and blue plants include hydrangeas, the tropical looking elephant ears (Colocasia esculenta) and the wonderful spring bulbs such as bluebells, Camassia and anemone blanda
Ideas for sunny sites
Foliage and flowers are obvious options but consider planting a stand of black bamboo in a large blue container.
There are many other black and blue options for sun including;
The shrub 'Black lace' elderberry (Sambucus racemosa), annual blue fanflower (Scaevola sp.) and perennial blue speedwells (Veronica sp.)
Then there are a couple of plants who have it all in one tidy package. 'Black and blue' sage is an annual in my area but worth including for all the hummingbirds it attracts.
'Caradonna' sage is a more reliable perennial and carries rich blue flowers along the length of its tough black stems. It blooms throughout the summer unlike some other varieties. All sages are deer resistant – a bonus for my garden. Still talking to the exploding rabbit population about their diet…
There are also several varieties of bugleweed (Ajuga reptans) which are almost black such as 'Black scallop' and 'Metallica'. In spring the foliage is studded with short fat spikes of blue flowers. Bugleweed loves moist conditions in partial shade. I am using it as a groundcover on my stream banks in the hope of suppressing weeds but it's also a popular addition in shade containers.
What's your favorite black and blue?