Moody Blues

As we move into July many of the hot colours are now emerging and mirror the warmer summer days. However, there are a number of blue flowers out in the garden at the moment that provide a welcome contrast offering a much cooler feel to the planting and make striking companions with many of the strong colours.

Here is my selection for this week’s ‘Six on Saturday’.

One: Triteleia

We also know this as Brodiaea. In many respects it looks a bit like a mini-agapanthus and seems to grow extremely well in the poorer gravelly soil around the patio. Its leaves are a bit limp and untidy at times but the mass of flowers that it produces in late June-early July are a joy. The flowers sit high on thin wiry stems and make excellent cut flowers.

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Two: Delphiniums

To be honest we have struggled a bit to get good delphiniums over the years. They are often set back by slug damage in the spring when they emerge from the soil and can often look a bit under-whelming. In addition, we have also found them to be quite short lived perennials that only last a few years in our damp winter soil.

We do continue to persevere because we always admire them when we see wonderful specimens in other peoples gardens. This year we have had success! The slugs seem to have been much less active in the spring due to the hot dry spell and the delphiniums got away without serious damage. Once they are above a certain height they seem to suffer much less.

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Three: Clary Sage (Blue Denim)

Clary Sage (Salvia horminum) is a hardy annual that is extremely easy to grow. In my view it does have to be planted out en masse to give an effective show. Each individual plant is rather insignificant but planted together in numbers the bracts will produce an intense blue haze. Here we have planted it with calendula to create what I think is a striking combination.

Once again Clary Sage makes an excellent cut flower.

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Four: Eryngium ‘Big Blue’

We have often struggled to grow Eryngium effectively in our garden but I think we seem to have hit the jackpot with this plant of the variety ‘Big Blue’. It has survived the winter and is growing away strongly producing masses of these spikey steel blue flowers. It goes really well with the yellow Sisyrinchium striatum (pale yellow-eyed-grass).

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Five: Phlox drummondii

We have only recently started growing this compact annual phlox. It has taken us a couple of years to learn how to grow it well. Once mastered (it seems to like rich, moist soil in plenty of light) it produces masses of these pretty blue blooms all summer. We plant it alongside purple sage, lavender and a blue nicotiana to create a stunning combination.

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Six: Catananche caerulea

My final selection for this six is Cupid’s Dart. In addition to having a cute name it is also a highly reliable hardy perennial. At this time of year it produces masses of these blue ‘dandelion’ flowers which float on thin wiry stems above a blue green rosette of leaves. It is particularly effective if you want to create a meadow garden look and I have seen it used beautifully in a natural planting at the entrance of Hidcote gardens.

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The Six on Saturday meme is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to be inspired by what other plant lovers are enjoying this weekend.

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The blues of July – Six on Saturday

The wedding season is in full swing and blue seems to be the colour of the moment.  As we bask in the summer sun here are this weeks ‘Six on Saturday’ from the garden.  All seem to be loving the hot weather.

One:  Lavender

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Two:  Echinops ritro

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Three:  Ageratum (with Clary Sage in the background)

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Four:  Eryngium planum

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Five:  Cornflowers

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Six:  Sweet Peas

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The Six on Saturday meme is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to see what other plant lovers are chatting about.


Honey Pot Flowers are wedding and celebration florists based in Warwickshire in the United Kingdom specialising in natural, locally grown seasonal flowers. We grow many of our own flowers allowing us to offer something very different and uniquely personal.

Camassia – the blue spires of May

May is a time for blue and white in the garden. The tall bluebell coloured spikes of Camassia leichtlinii can be relied upon to make a stunning show every year and have established themselves throughout the old rose garden.

A native of North America, these hardy perennials stand majestically some 3 feet high on strong sturdy stems. They grow well in damp, heavy, fertile ground in full sun or partial shade (damp ground seems to be a reoccurring theme in our garden (see Snake’s Head Fritillary) but this is not a challenge if you choose your plants wisely).

Companion planting

Camassia are able to establish themselves well in rough grassland as long as the moisture levels are right. In the last couple of years we have started to plant bulbs amongst an area of long grass and white cow parsley (Anthriscus syvestris) and I am delighted to see that they are establishing well. The blue and white should look wonderful together when they bulk up.

Camassia establishing well amongst the Cow Parsley
Camassia establishing well amongst the Cow Parsley

It is important to remember that the leaves should not be cut or strimmed until the bulbs die back naturally (about July) or the bulbs will not be able to build up effectively to over winter and multiply. The large bulbs (daffodil sized) do seem to move quite easily if you can plant them immediately.. Do not let them dry out.

In the herbaceous borders we have found Camassia works well when planted with tulips in contrasting colours surrounded and anchored to the ground with low growing forget-me-nots. Strictly speaking you could argue that Camassia and tulips need different growing conditions but they seem perfectly happy together.

Tulips Merlot, Marilyn and Pretty Woman amongst a sea of camassia
Tulips ‘Merlot’, ‘Marilyn’ and ‘Pretty Woman’ amongst a sea of Camassia

Cutting and conditioning

We have seen a trend towards a blue theme for wedding flowers this year ( Blues – this years’ wedding flower trend? ) and these flowers are certainly invaluable at this time of year. The complementary white ‘alba’ variety is also available.

The flower heads of Camassia open steadily from the bottom so you need to cut them early to get a long high quality flower stem. However, it is possible to pinch off the bottom-most flowers as they go over and use the remaining stem.

Conditioning is straight forward, simply cut and immediately place in cool water to condition for at least a couple of hours or overnight. Camassia are strongly geotropic so keep them upright and tied or they will soon bend upwards at the tips and look rather odd. Not a flower to be used horizontally in wide table arrangements.

One word of warning as we have found that the flowers do seem to stain other materials. We have an interesting blue pattern on a painted wall now!

Pest and diseases

From our experience they are not really attacked by slugs or other pests and remain relatively disease free. Good quality blooms are therefore easy to achieve if picked at the right time.

Hardiness: Fully hardy bulbous perennial

Origin: North America (Camassia quamash is reported by Anna Pavord to have been an important food plant for native Americans of the north west who dried the bulbs over their fires and stored them to eat in the winter ¹)

Family: Asparagaceae ²

Flowering time: May

Further reading

¹ “Bulb” by Anna Pavord (ISBN 978-1-84533-415-4)

² Royal Horticultural Society

Blues – this years’ wedding flower trend?

As our thoughts turn to the spring sowing of flower seeds we have been keeping an eye on the current trends for 2018 weddings.  Certainly the talk on the various bridal forums has indicated that blue, particularly navy and royal blue, is likely to be very popular this year.  This is also borne out by the orders we have received so far.

As there are relatively few true blue flowers this could potentially be challenging if we don’t carefully plan our sowing to ensure we have a good range in flowers throughout the season.  It is, however, not just about the blue as we need to ensure that we have a selection of complementary and contrasting colours available to set off the blues perfectly.

Pew ends in blue and white with a pop of yellow.
Pew ends of blue cornflowers and dutch iris alongside white roses and feverfew providing that tiny pop of yellow. Flowers by Honey Pot Flowers. Venue Wethele Manor, Warwickshire

So what are the options available for providing these blue floral arrangements with country garden flowers?

Powder Blue

I feel the lighter powder blues are perhaps easier to achieve than the darker navy and royal blues.  Many of these varieties make lovely garden plants as well as having the advantage of being good cut flowers.  Some of our favourites include:

  • ‘Love-in-a-mist’ (Nigella damascina and Nigella hispanica) – a lovely, delicate true blue flower that also yields interesting seed pods later in the season.
  • Ageratum – we particularly like the F1 strain ‘Blue Horizon’ as it has much longer cutting stems than the typical bedding varieties.  It is a great garden plant and goes on flowering its socks off and looking good until the first frosts of the autumn.
Ageratum 'Blue Horizon'
Ageratum ‘Blue Horizon’
  • Sea lavender (Limonium latifolium) – a light and delicate Limonium that is great for creating the open, wispy effect that sits so well with country garden wedding bouquets.  It also dries well.
  • Scabious – this is such a fantastic meadow style flower and always looks good in country style and wild garden bouquets.
Bouquet of white peonies, blue scabious and nigella
Bouquet of white peonies, blue scabious and nigella backed with asparagus fern and pittosporum. Flowers by Honey Pot Flowers
  • Sweet Peas – for fragrance you cannot beat the Sweet Pea and there are some pale blue varieties that fit this blue trend perfectly.
Pale blue sweet peas with lime green Alchemilla
Pale blue sweet peas with lime green Alchemilla
  • Didiscus – a delicate and interesting bloom that holds well and adds a meadow touch to any arrangement.
Didiscus
Didiscus

Mid-blue

  • Cornflowers – probably one of our most used blue flowers ideal for bouquets, arrangements and buttonholes.  They hold extremely well and can cope with being out of water for some time.  Cornflowers are one of a limited number of flowers that work reliably in a flower crown of fresh flowers on a hot summers day.  They are also edible and can be used as cake flowers.
Flower Girl Wand in blue and white bound with white satin.
Flower Girl Wand in blue and white bound with white satin. Flowers by Honey Pot Flowers
  • Delphiniums – these are extremely valuable as they come in a range of blues from a light powder blue shade, through mid-blue and also rich deep blues. The blooms are rather more ‘chunky’ than larkspur but that makes them particularly good for large pedestal and church arrangements.
  • Dutch Iris – blue is a receding colour and it often requires a pop of white or yellow to bring it to life.   There are some varieties of Dutch Iris which are almost a deep velvety blue but the typical dutch iris is mid-blue with a flash of yellow or white that sets off the blue nicely.

Deep Blue to Mauve/Purple

  • Anemone – if you are putting together a spring wedding then the Anemone will be one of the stars of the show.  We have found that they are relatively short lived in our garden and each year the flower stems get shorter and shorter.  Although still useful as a garden plant they become less useful as a cut flower as time goes by.  We therefore tend to buy and plant new corms each year to maintain a good crop of usable stems.
Country bouquet
Country bouquet featuring blue anenomes, dutch iris and limonium. Flowers by Honey Pot Flowers. Photograph by Michelle Hardy Photography http://www.michellehardyphotography.com/
  • Delphinium ‘Volkerfrieden’ – this Delphinium of the ‘Belladonna Group’ provides a true blue flower that is open and delicate.  It regularly appears in our Honey Pot Flowers designs!
  • Larkspur – although strictly speaking a Delphinium the annual Larkspur species D.consolida and D.ajacis tend to be much more delicate than the perennial border delphiniums.  They therefore lend themselves better to smaller bouquets and table arrangements and can also be dried and used for petal confetti.
Larkspur 'Braveheart'
Larkspur ‘Braveheart’
  • Clary Sage – a well behaved flower stem that provides colour all summer.  A useful filler in both the borders and in bouquets.  It is in fact the colourful bracts rather than the true flowers that provide the shot of blue.
  • Salvia caradona – a very useful addition to any arrangement providing an architectural spike of deep blue/mauve.  In the garden we do find that it is a short lived perennial that needs to be replaced regularly.
Blue and white wedding bouquet of cottage garden flowers
Blue and white wedding bouquet of Delphinium ‘Volkerfrieden’ and Cornflower with the deeper blue/mauve provided by Salvia caradona. Flowers by Honey Pot Flowers

Complementary and contrasting colours

I think it is important to mention that when designing with blue, either in a garden setting or in a floral arrangement, you need other colours to bring the blue to life.  Blue and white sit well together and provide a pleasing and relaxed effect but equally pairing deep blues and mauve with pops of yellow or even orange create a strong vibrant effect that can be truly stunning.

Blues have the ability to offer both soft or vibrant displays.  If the blues become a strong trend in 2018 it could prove to be a very exciting year.