Blue is one of the most popular colours. The azure blue of the sky is reflected in our lakes, oceans and waterways and creates the haze in distant mountains but the pigment blue in the garden is extremely rare. So, even though Blue is all around us in the environment, Blue is elusive and there are very few blue pigments in the natural world.
From ultramarine, sapphire, cyan, peacock, and royal to indigo, cobalt, cornflower, cerulean, and all the shades of pastel blues, Blue has been a sought-after colour in textile design, art, and jewellery for centuries sourced from gemstones, minerals, feathers and today from synthetic paint pigments. True blue colour or pigment in nature is only there because plants play tricks with the light to appear blue.
The flowers of plumbago, hydrangeas, bluebells, morning glory and delphiniums, for example, use acidity in the soil and natural red pigments called anthocyanins to combine with reflected light from the sky to make them appear blue. In some cases vibrant blue. The particular anthocyanins for violet-blue are called Delphinidin. When this pigment is combined with the right minerals it will lower or raise the pH and become a blue colour in flowers like Delphiniums, Bluebells, and Hydrangeas. Nature is amazing.
Blue is cooling and brings to mind feelings of purity, truth, serenity, and spirituality. No wonder we love blue in outdoor spaces and gardens but there is only about 10% of the plant world that is true blue. There are no real blue roses for example, but plenty of other plants to choose from that act as paintbox of blue hues from foliage, grasses, trees, and many flowering plants and bulbs.
A clever use of blue is to have the brighter blues at one end of the garden and lighter blues at the other, and this will create a spatial illusion where the lighter blues make the area appear larger. This openness creates inviting spaces that are calming, relaxing and therefore soothing.
It is no surprise that Blue is the coveted and most desired colour in the garden. Blue stimulates our sense of rest caused by the body producing calming chemicals that give us a sense of tranquillity. To make the garden peaceful and relaxing the idea is to keep the colour temperature on the cool side and to avoid strong contrasts. So blues, purple, blue-green and white plants, trees and grasses were added and repeated throughout the garden as accents.
On the other hand, bright blue glazed pots can add a burst of colour and can make spaces appear more open, welcoming and expansive. Blue is popular because it contrasts so well with yellows, golds, peach, orange, whites and the many greens in all the foliage.
Macul albastru de Himalaya by American artist Joan Hoffman
This beautiful blue poppy is one of the rarest plants in the world because it has true blue pigment. It is a Himalayan poppy that grows at 11,000 feet above sea level in Tibet and can withstand freezing temperatures and extreme conditions, although it is quite frail. The seeds take 2-3 years to grow and bloom, then they will only flower once and then seed and die.
Blue flowers that are more easily available are Lobelia, Alliums, Hyacinths, Ageratum, Plumbago, Hydrangeas, Delphiniums, Scabiosa, Passionflower, Agapanthus, Bluebells, Daisies, Forget me Knots, Iris, Borage, and Salvias come to mind. There are many more blues in other perennials and bulbs, annuals, shrubs, trees and vines. Then all the mauve or purple shades of blue, like lavender, wisteria, catnip, clematis, pansies, petunias, and violas, to choose from.
Blue does not have to be limited to plants, trees and grasses. Fixtures, planters, furniture, sculptures or other structures can add a dash of blue and bring continuity to outdoor spaces. Paint is a quick and easy way to do this. A splash of paint to a fence, table, bench, chair or perhaps a blue gate or trellis will bring your favourite blue hue into the landscape.
Silver and grey foliage is perfect too with blue because it makes whatever colours are in the garden, especially the bluey mauves, pop in the landscape. Plants to consider are Lavenders, Stachys Lambs Ears, Wormwoods, Santolinas, Blue grasses, Sea Holly, Russian Sage, Common Sage, Sedums, and my absolute favourite Rose Campion.
One of the most spectacular gardens featuring blue is the Jardin Majorelle in Morocco. Yves Saint Laurent once lived on the property, and the shade of Blue is known as Majorelle Blue after French artist Jacques Majorelle designed the original garden. These are a few pictures of my visit to the Jardin in Marrakech in 2018.
Another spectacular and historically significant private blue garden is The Newport Blue Garden in Rhode Island, New York. In the early 1900s The Blue Garden was staffed by 40 gardeners who replanted several times a year to keep the garden fresh for the lavish parties, and garden tours that were famous in the day. Click on The Blue Garden site to read more on the history and restoration of a rare and inspiring garden.
Many plant species reflect blue in the garden, whether the look is for a soft pastel garden or a vibrant, brightly contrasting one. Blue to Grey and Purple colourings are sure to make you feel relaxed and uplifted when working in the garden and enjoying your outdoor spaces. And there are so many different hues to choose from in plants, grasses, trees and paint, pots or structures: Navy, Royal, Ultramarine, Azure, Denim, French Blue, Baby Blue, Periwinkle, Beryl Blue, Indigo, Marine Blue, Powder Blue, Midnight Blue, Cornflower, Peacock Blue, Cyan, Saxe Blue, Cobalt, Cerulean, Teal, Sapphire, Sky Blue, Cambridge Blue, Duck Egg Blue, Phthalo Blue, Egyptian Blue and Greyish Blue.
Content Di Baker 2022
Jardin Majorelle Images Di Baker
Art Images as cited
Silver Foliage Plant images Wikimedia.com
Images otherwise are courtesy of Unsplash.com