Episode 47 – The Blue Plants Show: our favorite blue plants

Ground Breaking Banter - Rick

Today, we celebrate the color blue. The timing is perfect, because during periods of hot weather, blue offers a cooling effect. But finding those perfect blue plants isn’t easy. Of the multitude of known flowering plant species in the world, fewer than 10% produce blue flowers. It’s even rarer in the animal world, with some notable exceptions: insects, reptiles, fish, and of course, birds (bluebirds, blue jays, indigo buntings, and even the blue eggs of a robin).
In the garden, blue flowers have another interesting quality: they seem to recede from us. This trait can be used to increase the sense of openness and expansion in your garden.
If the perfect blue flower won’t grow in your area, you can always add a splash of blue by accessorizing your garden with a blue-glazed pot or a gazing ball.
“Blue is genetically a difficult color to find,” says Allan Armitage, a professor at the University of Georgia, Athens, who researches new garden plants. “When it’s dark, it’s purple. When it’s light, it’s lavender. The perfect blue is the apex.” Blue is the most elusive, most coveted color in gardening.
Blue is a cool color. Cool colors create calm, serene spaces. These are the spaces you utilize when you need to wind down, de-stress and chill out. Pairing plantings with blue and other cool colors with seating and tables where you might read a book, work a crossword puzzle or watch the wildlife interact with your garden while sipping a cool beverage is a great way to go. Combine some of your cool color planted areas with shade and you’ll create a great respite away from the hot summer sun. Who doesn’t need an oasis now and then? Cool colors also create a sense of spaciousness. If you have a small or cramped area, using blue and other colors will make that space feel larger than it is.

Looking for some blue inspiration? Here’s a list of some of my favorite blue plants:
Festuca glauca (also Rick’s code name for television appearances)
Hydrangeas like Let’s Dance Skyview or Rhythmic Blue or Blue Jangles
Lots of spring flowering bulbs: muscari/grape hyacinth, Siberian squill, glory of the snow, hyacinth
Sea holly/eryngium
Beyond Midnight bluebeard
Blue Diddley vitex
Playin’ the Blues and Rockin’ Blue Suede Shoes salvia
Agapanthus, aka lily of the Nile
Pugster Blue butterfly bush
Blue hostas like ‘Waterslide’ or ‘Above the Clouds’
Decadence Blueberry Sundae baptisia
Laguna Blue lobelia
Echinops – globe thistle
Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’ and ‘Blue Boa’
Blue rose of Sharon
Stokes Aster
Magic Show ‘Ever After’ and ‘Wizard of Ahhs’ veronica
‘Rozanne’ perennial geranium
Supertunia Vista Blue Skies
Mini Vista Supertunia Indigo
Morning Glory
Angelface Super Blue angelonia
Bluebird nemesia

Coming soon  – thanks for your patience!  

If you’d like to add Let’s Dance Sky View hydrangea – or any of the 320+ Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs – to your garden or landscape, you’ll find a list of local retailers here

Gardening Mail Bag - Stacey

Do you have a question for us? We’re happy to help! E-mail us or use the contact tab above.

Branching News - Rick

Struggling to feel healthy? A new study revealed how the weather and sunlight play a significant role in us feeling better in the summer than any other time of year. A poll of 2,000 US adults revealed 75% feel more encouraged to be healthy if the weather is perfect and many suggested sunshine’s vital role in feeling their best. Sunny skies (46%) and warm temperatures (45%) were found to be the “healthiest” weather conditions, but if it’s storming or humid (10%), Americans are more likely to resort to unhealthy habits. Over four in five (84%) agreed being outside gives them more energy to do the activities they love and 49% feel at their most physically active during the summer months. A similar 42% feel at their healthiest during the summer, as well. During the summer people tend to prioritize a healthier diet (51%), regular exercise (48%) and taking daily vitamins (45%). Meanwhile, cold and wet months during the winter are when people feel the unhealthiest (59%) and are less physically active (60%).

The National Weather Service said Saturday it wasn’t a large swarm of grasshoppers its radar imaging caught moving into northwest Utah after all. A week after announcing that alarming discovery, the weather service reported that further analysis showed that the unusual blip on the radar most likely was caused by material released from a U.S. Air Force base in Nevada. Scientists initially identified the June 21 radar movement as insects, because the group was very “non-uniform,” and meteorological events — like raindrops and snowflakes — tend to be more consistent in shape, meteorologist Alex DeSmet said. However, meteorologist Monica Traphagan said Saturday that further analysis identified the radar movement as “chaff,” a reflective substance deployed by the military to confuse radars — such as those that guide missiles. This chaff, Traphagan said, originated from Nellis Air Force Base, about 10 miles northeast of Las Vegas.“It can sometimes confuse our radars as well,” Trapahagan wrote in an email Saturday. “The appearance of insects and chaff can have some similar characteristics, which led to the error in the original analysis.”

As drought-stricken Arizona bakes in searing heat, the Scottsdale City Council unanimously agreed this week to ban natural grass in front of future single-family homes in an effort to conserve water. The new ordinance will apply to new houses constructed or permitted after August 15. According to Scottsdale City Council, feedback gathered from Scottsdale Water customers in June found that 86% of those who responded supported the ordinance.

“It’s a positive step that supports responsible use of our water resources and an initiative that works in tandem with Scottsdale Water’s existing residential and commercial rebate programs that offer water saving options and maintain the beauty and functionality of Scottsdale’s neighborhoods,” the city council said in a news release.

SWANSEA, Mass. (WJAR) – A woman in Massachusetts decided to buy herself something she’s always wanted for her 97th birthday – a top-of-the-line John Deere tractor. While most people at an older age sometimes spend more time in the house or start to slow things down a bit, that couldn’t be further from the truth for Marie Erickson. She likes to take her tractor out for fun. “I’m on that tractor every day,” Erickson said. “Whether the grass needs cutting or not, I go around and check and when I see it, I cut it.” Her home sits on a beautiful 2.5 acres of land. It keeps me busy,” Erickson said, explaining she doesn’t like to do housework. Even before her husband died, the 4-foot-8-inch firecracker always had a love of landscaping.“I had a push mower, but I was a younger girl. I could push that, but now forget it,” Erickson joked. She saved her money for over a year so she could treat herself to a new John Deere tractor with power steering. I said, ‘I think I’m worth it,’” Erickson said. “I’m not going to take the money with me. I’m going to spend it.” She took a trip to the dealership in Massachusetts in May and bought the tractor in cash.Some of the salespeople were curious why someone her age wanted a John Deere so Erickson explained that though she doesn’t drive a car anymore, this was the next best thing. Since the purchase, Erickson has been taking out her tractor for a daily dose of relaxation. As she inches closer to 100, she said it’s been quite the ride and you’re never too old to take out your toys.

Recently published research indicates that monarch butterflies live year-round in South Carolina, relying on swamps in spring, summer and fall and sea islands in the winter. While these monarchs rely heavily on aquatic milkweed (Asclepias perennis) as a host plant for their eggs and caterpillars, they were also found to use swallow-wort (Pattalias palustre) – a viney relative of milkweed that grows near salt marshes and was previously unrecognized as an important host plant for monarchs. The results showed strong seasonal patterns. They found monarch butterflies in every month of the study period, establishing that many monarchs are overwintering in South Carolina rather than migrating to the well-known sites in Mexico. Monarchs in this study were more concentrated in maritime habitats (i.e., barrier islands directly on the ocean) in winter but were widely dispersed across coastal plain swamps in spring, summer and fall.

A fallen tree blocking a nearby road trapped more than 100 people on Friday at the home of Agatha Christie, the late crime writer regarded as the best-selling novelist of all time. One visitor to Christie’s Greenway House in England said she arrived around 11:30 a.m. and had been stuck for hours. “There is only one road in and out of Greenway,” Caroline Heaven said. “There is about 100 of us trapped here, at least 100, and the staff. It’s a shame really. They are doing a great job, they are giving us free teas and things. It’s a bit bleak.” A spokesperson for National Trust, the owner of the home, confirmed that a “large tree” fell onto Greenway’s “single-track road” and has been obstructing all traffic in and out of the area. The spokesperson said local police and highway officials were working to “get this resolved quickly as possible.”