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Rhonda Ferree's ILRiverHort

Rhonda Ferree's Horticulture Blog
Beautiful hydrangeas grace the front yard of Jim and Marcia Forquer, 229 N. 14th Ave., Canton, June 2012 Bright Spot.

Gardening Blues


The color blue is sometimes difficult to use in the garden. This is partly because there are very few true blue flowers in nature and partly because some of the most striking blue-flowered plants are challenging to grow in Central Illinois. Still adding a touch of blue to the garden appears to be gaining in popularity. Rhonda Ferree, extension educator in horticulture, provides the following tips for adding just the right touch of blue to your garden.

Colors invoke emotion. Cool colors of blue, green, and violet are peaceful and make an area seem cooler and larger. Blue is the color of distance and can help create the illusion of depth in a small garden. Soft purples and blues can make your garden feel larger because those plants seem farther away.

On the other hand, warm colors of orange, red and yellow grab your attention creating a focal point in the garden. They also make large areas appear smaller. Brighter colors function well as accents.

In a small garden, color can be used in gradation to create the illusion of space. A great way to achieve this is to have, for instance, bold blue flowers at one end that fade into a lighter blue at the other end of the garden. The garden will always appear larger from the bolder end of the color scale so make sure this is where you spend most of your time in your garden.

According to Rhonda, some blue flowers can be challenging to grow in Illinois, but their beauty is worth the extra effort. For example, some varieties of Hydrangea macrophyla produce a beautiful blue flower in acid soil, thus needing routine acid fertilizer applications. Delphiniums and lupines have a particularly vibrant violet-blue color. Although we can get them to produce flowers in Illinois, they prefer cooler temperatures than our summers typically provide. Similarly, blue poppies provide an outstanding icy-blue flower but are very hard to grow in our climate.

Easier options include clematis, bell flowers (Campanula), bluestar (Amsonia), morning glories, lavender, salvia, and asters. Of these, the morning glory comes in the most true blue color. Morning glory blooms only last a one day and open in the mornings, so be sure to catch them in the garden over your morning coffee.

Color doesn't have to be limited to flowers. Add interest in your yard with garden art or containers. A bold blue ceramic pot, for example, can make just as much impact as the blooms it holds. Rhonda says that blue bottles used as bottle trees, as edging, or as carefully placed garden art are becoming very popular. Add blue focal points to the garden using a blue garden bench or gazing ball. Be creative, but don't overdo it. Too much blue creates mental chaos and could leave garden visitors "feeling blue."



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