Early spring blues

Thursday, 11 September 2008

There are some pretty blue flowers out now, and many of them grow quite well in shade, creating an enjoyable effect in the part-shaded areas of my garden where hot-coloured abutilons (Abutilon x hybridus), orange and yellow clivia (Clivia miniata), red/orange paintbrush lily (Scadoxus puniceus), firefly (Justicia rizzinii),Kohleria eriantha and a mischievous annual, Corydalis lutea fight it out every spring.

Salvia fallax is a winter-spring blooming salvia growing 1.5-2m tall, with long spires of dainty, pale blue flowers held in dark calyces. It copes with part shade (though grows well in sun too) and is an effective backdrop to the bright flowers nearby. Salvia rubignosa is another salvia which blooms from winter into spring, about a metre in height, with chubby clusters of bright blue flowers held in purple calyces. It flowers best in sun but can cope with a little shade.

Bulbs are starting to bloom, and bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica) and spring starflowers (Tristagma uniflorum, syn. Ipheion uniflorum) will happily multiply in partly shaded spots to form a pool of blue. The crested iris (Iris japonica) - one of the so-called Evansia iris species - is an easily grown rhizomatous plant with ruffled blue (or white) flowers in August and September, and it relishes a shady spot. It forms a good groundcover around azaleas, and its fans of leaves make a good foliage contrast in the garden. A less commonly seen Evansia iris is Iris wattii, which is taller and has much larger frilly lavender blue flowers.

Spring annuals are another source of flowers for partly shaded places: forget-me-nots (Myosotis sylvatica), cineraria (Pericallis x hybrida) and polyanthus (Primula, Polyanthus Group) all have blooms in various shades of blue, and like spring bulbs, provide that infusion of freshness that tells us that spring is here!