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Yard MD: Black and blue: Create a garden of unusual elegance

Aug. 30, 2013
 
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Hoary vervain, one of just a few native perennials that bloom in the color blue, is a prolific bloomer, decorating the garden in July and August with its tall, flowering spikes. / Rob Zimmer/Post-Crescent Media

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COMING NEXT WEEK

Fresh flowers are the hottest thing at area farmer’s markets, as colorful bouquets fill the streets. Next week, I’ll show you how to grow your own cut-flower garden featuring all of your colorful favorites.

More

While the combination of black and blue foliage and flowers in the garden may not be the first color combo that comes to mind, the result — both visually and spiritually — will surprise you.

If you’re looking for something different from the standard yellows, oranges and pinks, try this soothing and elegant color combination.

With its mystery and intrigue, the color black is gaining in popularity among gardeners and plant breeders and growers. From foliage to flowers, the color black is one of the most sought after colors, not just for gardening but for elegant bouquets and arrangements as well.

Labeling them black is taking the color a bit generously. Many marketers have simply resorted to calling any dark-colored flower “black,” even using altered images to make a flower appear to be true black. Many are simply a deep shade of red or purple.

However, there are many that truly do bloom in jet black, including irises, pansies, violas, hollyhocks and more.

While the color blue is relatively easy to find among the garden annuals, finding blue perennials is somewhat of a fun and exciting challenge.

It is especially challenging to find perennials in blue that will keep your theme alive and blooming from spring right through the first frost in autumn.

I’ll give you some ideas to help keep your black-and-blue theme going strong throughout the growing season.

Spring

Kick off the year-long parade of black and blue plants in your garden in spring. There are a large number of plants available in both colors to add elegance and richness to your garden.

Standing tall, Queen of the Night tulips make a stunning display in the garden. These tulips are among the tallest available, as well as the longest blooming. Colored rich, deep blackish purple, these tulips remain the darkest ones available. Black Parrot tulips, with their black-burgundy color and large, feathered petals are another option available.

Combine these beautiful black tulips with a carpet of calming blue grape hyacinths or anemones for a long blooming display in striking black and blue.

Blue Heron tulips, with their delicately fringed petals make a great choice for blue flowering bulbs. Combine these beautiful tulips with black pansies or violas for long-lasting blooms in the spring garden.

There are many pansies and violas available in black as well as brilliant shades of blue. Many violas and pansies are also patterned black and blue themselves.

All of these tulips will be available in just a few weeks in garden centers across our area. Check your favorite local garden center for their tulip and hyacinth selection as these need to be planted in fall for spring bloom.

Columbines are wonderful perennials that come in many varieties colored black or blue. These can be mixed or matched to create a wonderful black and blue garden in spring. Varieties of columbine to look for include Black Barlow, Blue Barlow, Blue Clementine and, my favorite, Alpine. There are also large flowered varieties such as Rocky Mountain Columbine and Songbird Blue Jay.

Summer

Your black and blue theme garden can really come to life in summer with many plants available in these elegant shades.

One of the most stunning perennials available in black is Black Lace Elderberry. With it’s finely toothed, lacy foliage, colored a rich, deep black, this plant can reach 8 feet tall and wide, so be sure to give it plenty of room.

There are many coral bells that are near black in color, as well as ajuga, which are spreading ground covers.

Black gamecock iris is a stunning near-black that blooms in early summer. Another early summer blooming iris is Superstition.

There are a large number of brilliant blue iris available including Full Tide and Victoria Falls, as well as Siberian irises, such as Caesar’s Brother and others.

Plant black and blue irises together, or separately, surrounded by pansies, violas and deep blue geraniums, also known as cranesbills.

Black and blue salvia combines the two colors on one plant, with jet black stems featuring brilliant blue flowers. These plans are especially attractive to hummingbirds as they begin to migrate late in summer. There are many sages and salvias available in various shades of blue.

There are many other annuals and perennials for summer that come in blue and black including black Nigra hollyhocks, black and blue delphiniums, larkspur, morning glories, as well as hyacinth bean, which features deep black-purple stems and rich purplish-blue flowers.

Fall

Your black and blue theme can continue right through first frost by including a number of late blooming perennials and cool weather annuals in each color.

Some terrific blue perennials for fall include great blue lobelia, bottle gentian and many species of asters that bloom in shades of blue ranging from light, sky blue all the way to deep, dark shades.

Most striking of the fall-blooming blues are the many varieties of monkshood. These towering beauties, in all their mystery and intrigue, spend most of the year forming a large clump of finely lobed leaves, then suddenly shoot up flowering stalks late in summer that bloom until frost. Snip off spent stalks to keep the blooms coming.

Balloon flowers will continue to bloom well into fall. Simply deadhead or sheer back the stalks.

Black snakeroot, which blooms in plumes of white or pink, is known for its deep black foliage that is almost fern-like. This plant becomes even darker in full shade.

As cool weather sets in, replenish your garden beds with masses of black and blue pansies and violas.

— Rob Zimmer:920-993-1000, ext. 7154, yardmd@postcrescent.com

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