Archive for the ‘Blue’ Category

Eryngium planum 'Blue Cap" - thriving in less than ideal conditions at the 108 Heritage Site, Lac La Hache. We planted the raised perennial beds at the rest stop over 10 years ago with "tough, no-maintainence" plants, and it is quite interesting to see what has survived and, in some cases, thrived. This sea holly and Achillea filipendulina, Salvia nemerosa, Lychnis coronaria and Silene maritime, a goodly number of columbines, Erigeron 'Pink Jewel' and various sedums are hanging right in there. Exposed site, no supplementary water or fertilizer, and lots of traffic back and forth - we're pretty happy with how this planting has held up.

Eryngium planum ‘Blue Cap” – thriving in less than ideal conditions at the 108 Roadhouse Heritage Site, Lac La Hache. We planted the raised perennial beds at the rest stop there over 10 years ago with “tough, no-maintainence” plants, and it is quite interesting to see what has survived and, in most cases, thrived. This sea holly and Achillea filipendulina, Salvia nemerosa, Lychnis coronaria and Silene maritima, a goodly number of columbines, Erigeron ‘Pink Jewel’ and various sedums are hanging right in there. Exposed site, no supplementary water or fertilizer, and lots of traffic back and forth – we’re pretty happy with how this planting has held up. Photo taken in the late evening while stopping by for a quick break to stretch our road-trip weary legs, mid-August, 2012. Image: HFN

Perennial. Zone 2. Apiaceae. Central Europe, from Germany and Austria eastward to Russia; throughout the Caucasus Mountain region and into central Asia, where it grows happily in grassy meadows and on rocky, sun-baked hillsides.

I’ve been a die-hard fan of the sea hollies in general and this species in particular ever since my mother planted one out on her difficult-ground shale hillside north of Williams Lake over four decades ago. It self seeded about, and made a thriving colony, and provided untold hundreds of sturdy bloom stems which ended up being dried and made into everlasting wreaths and arrangements which Mom then gave to friends and sold at various arts-and-crafts sales.

It really is as blue as it looks, and the stems carry that cobalt blush as well, almost as if the whole thing were dusted with spray paint by someone seeking to enhance things.

Leathery, silvery-green, rounded leaves in basal rosettes send up 18-24” tall multi-branched stems topped by loose clusters of bristly, bracted, cone-shaped flower heads summer through fall.  Stems and flowers are flushed a deep electric blue. A very long season of bloom through summer into autumn.

An excellent cutflower and everlasting. A popular bee and butterfly flower, always alive with insect activity.

‘Blue Cap’ – translated from ‘Blaukappe’ – is a premium German selection of the species, and is even more compact and floriferous (and darker blue) than its attractive ancestor. A number of other E. planum cultivars have appeared in recent years, such as the very dwarf ‘Blue Hobbit’, and white forms such as ‘Silver Salentino’ and ‘White Glitter’.

A variegated form, ‘Jade Frost’, with pink-blushed, white-edged foliage, has been appearing in garden centres for a few years; I have a small planting of this cultivar and am at this point not terribly impressed, as one of the original trio mysteriously withered and died, and the other two are less vigorous than I had hoped for from this generally reliable species.

Sun; any soil; drought tolerant. Fantastic xeriscape plant. A generous self-seeder, but not a “runner” – individual plants stay put, and are tap rooted and very long lived. Oh – and it is reasonably deer resistant, too!


Definitely approved by bees! A late evening forager on ‘Blue Cap’ Sea Holly at the 108 Roadhouse Heritage Site at Lac La Hache, B.C., mid-August, 2012. Image: HFN

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UBC Botanical Garden, Vancouver, B.C. April 8, 2014

Trachystemon orientalis – UBC Botanical Garden, Vancouver, B.C. April 8, 2014. Image: HFN

Perennial. Zone 4/5. Boraginaceae. Syn. Borago orientalis. Bulgaria, Turkey, northern Asia.

Something of a bio plant (“botanical interest only”) but one which I am intrigued by, having long had a strong affection for the members of the Boraginaceae as a whole.

Deep green, crisply wrinkled, rather bristly leaves arise in early spring, along with many 6-inch stems topped by loose spikes of many small, star-shaped blue blooms with curiously reflexed petals and prominent stamen clusters. A rich nectar source, the flowers are a favourite of foraging bees. Once the flowers subside in May, the foliage expands to form a dense colony of 18-inch long, bright green leaves, reminiscent of a colony of furry-leaved hostas.

Most literature dismisses Trachystemon orientalis as hardy only to Zone 6, but properly sited, in humus-rich soil in areas with reliable snow cover, this one is worth a try in our region’s Zone 4-ish woodland gardens.

From UBC Botanical Garden horticulturist Jackie Chambers, April 2, 2008:

A fine example of Trachystemon orientalis can be found in the David C. Lam Asian Garden here at UBC. The coarse-textured, heart-shaped leaves are bright green and reach 25-30cm long. However, it is the dainty blue flowers, currently in bloom, that are the most striking feature of this perennial groundcover.

The flowers are held on hairy, purple flower stalks of 15-30cm in height. Flower stalks emerge in early spring (March-April) before the leaves have reached full size. Individual flowers are about 1cm in diameter, and are hermaphroditic – meaning they have both staminate (pollen producing) and carpellate (ovule producing) structures. Stiff hairs and blue flowers are typical features of members of Boraginaceae.

Trachystemon is derived from the Greek trachys, meaning rough, and stemon, a stamen. The species name orientalis means eastern or from the orient, and is a reference to the native distribution of this species. Trachystemon orientalis is endemic to southeastern Europe and western Asia.

In Turkey, the plant is eaten as a vegetable, and has the common name aci hodan. The flowers, stems, young leaves and rhizome may all be cooked and eaten.

English common names include Abraham-Isaac-Jacob, and Eastern or Oriental borage.

From a horticulturist perspective, this plant is an extremely useful groundcover; while it prefers partly shaded woodland locations, it can tolerate full sun to shade, and a range of soil conditions. It even performs well in dry shade which is always a challenge for gardeners.

Trachystemon orientalis grows in forested and subalpine areas of its native lands, where it is collected in early spring as a much-loved delicacy. It is sold in the local farmers’ markets and prepared rather like spinach, though I would fervently hope that the overall bristly texture is subdued by cooking.

A gardener from Ankara, Turkey, shared this comment on an online garden forum I occasionally visit:

This plant is highly edible and grows in the Black Sea mountains in Turkey. Much like spinach it needs a very good soak and rinsing several times because of the bristles. It is a lovely food, stem and flowers included, when chopped and added to sautéed chopped onions then whisked eggs stirred in and allowed to cook through. Salt and pepper to taste.

It is a seasonal plant and not available except by foraging for it. (The common name in Turkey is) ‘Kaldirik’.

Grown as an ornamental in Great Britain since the 1860s, it was reportedly introduced to North American in the 1970s by renowned plantsman John Elsley, who has been instrumental in introducing many new-to-the-continent species and cultivars to the North American nursery trade.

Still very rare in the nursery trade in Canada. Reported to be easy from seed, so a good place to start would be the various alpine garden club seed exchanges, or keep an eye out if visiting a coastal specialty nursery. Hill Farm Nursery hopes to be able to offer this plant in the future. A test planting is in the ground as of fall 2014.

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Biennial or Short-lived Perennial. Zone 4. Boraginaceae. Mediterranean region.  A.k.a. ALKANET, ITALIAN BUGLOSS.

Clusters of intensely cobalt-blue flowers rather like large forget-me-nots appear late spring into summer on 4 foot plants. Deep green, bristly, elongated foliage. It is related to Borage, and so it is no surprise that it is much beloved by bees.

A selection of the Italian wildflower,  ‘Dropmore Blue’ is an excellent Canadian cultivar introduced in 1905 by the famed Agricultural Research Station in Dropmore, Manitoba.

Anchusa is beautiful with yellow grandiflora foxgloves and other early summer flowers. I fell in love with this years ago during a late June visit to Butchart Gardens, where it was in full bloom in the rose garden – it was absolutely stunning with the rosy reds and pinks! You do see it occasionally in botanical and show gardens, but though once popular in home plantings, Anchusa is now quite rare; not many are familiar with this pretty plant.

The roots of the wild Anchusa are used to produce a red dye; apparently this trait carries over in the domesticated strain. There are also medicinal uses as a wound herb. I find that I need to be cautious when handling the bristly leaves, for, as with Borage, I have developed a sensitivity to the bristly hairs and break out in a mild but annoying rash from over-exposure. I would recommend wearing gloves when pruning or tidying up this one, just to be on the safe side.

Cut back after blooming for new flowers on fresh, lower growth in autumn. Anchusa is tap-rooted, so do not attempt to move plants once established, and transplant seedlings with care. It may sometimes self-sow modestly.

Anchusa generally acts as a biennial, though some plants may overwinter a third and fourth year, so keep an eye out for seedlings, or collect the large, black seeds to re-sow next season.

Plant in full sun. Thrives in any average soil with good drainage. Quite drought tolerant once established.



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