Thursday, May 28, 2015

Color Garden: The Blues

Chickadee Gardens is a reflection of me. That may be translated to mean that it's a bit on the neurotic side, i.e., yellow plants go there and blue plants go here. I have groupings of blue plants where they are supposed to go, in the blue garden, of course, and no where else. Joking aside, my blue garden is a very small hell strip garden that has given me much of grief over the years. Now, it is finally starting to fill in, take hold, and bring me joy. Let's have a look at this tiny strip of dirt between the sidewalk and street known as the hell strip blue garden.


Today's blue garden, bringing spiky, blue-ish joy.


Here it is, a few seasons after I removed everything that was here when I moved in. A few incarnations later, this selection of plants is beginning to take hold. This is no bed for sissies; it's a brutal east-wind facing, car-exhaust consuming, dog-pee infested little strip of clay. I have lost probably two Arctostaphylos and one Ceanothus 'Dark Star' (boo hoo!) and countless other goodies. But the beat goes on and here are the survivors.


Before we delve too deeply into dissecting the blue garden plant population, let's look briefly at the before photos from last year and maybe two years back.


This is late winter probably two, perhaps three years ago with a doomed Pieris that I gave to a neighbor and some other odds and ends. It isn't pretty.


This is early last summer. The lush, lovely Sedum oreganum in the foreground is long gone thanks to some over zealous pigeons on a never-ending quest for ground bugs. Thanks, piges--you guys are on my hit list. The now-gone Ceanothus can be seen at the back of the bed in this photo, as can the doomed Arctostaphylos in the middle of the bed. Also, in the middle is the super hardy Philadelphus lewisii, our native mock orange, still going strong. The blue fescue here is gone, replaced with a much better cultivar 'Beyond Blue'. I had a few native pentsemons that did well for several years but fizzled out as penstemons do.


Let's break it down into some of the players. Here's a favorite that replaced the Ceanothus 'Dark Star', and I love this plant. It's a Callistemon viridiflorus from Xera Plants.


It has white bark, spiky leaves and bottlebrush blossoms. It bloomed just this week for its first time and I love it. Be damned that it's not blue, I am giving up my rigid color confining ways. Maybe a little.


I am mad about sea hollies or Eryngium spp. This one is Eryngium bourgatii also from Xera Plants. This is the first year for it to bloom also.


From ghostly white to electric blue, it's gorgeous.




This sweet little flower is Sisyrinchium angustifolium our native blue-eyed grass. It happily seeds about and is easy to pull out if it becomes too abundant. I allow it to settle where it will.


Like here. I don't remember where I actually planted this originally but it's all around now.


Here's my happy Eryngium agavifolium. It has been swallowed up by other plants this year but it will soon send up a submarine periscope flower stock so I will be able to locate it.


So I asked Greg at Xera what the toughest (at the right size) Arcto is, because I have to have one for this blue garden, and he said this one, the Arctostaphylos x densiflora 'Harmony'.


So far so good, it has taken hold and grown like mad since last year. It survived the winter and has not dropped many leaves and likes the gravel mulch. I think this one will stick. Thanks, Greg!


Another sea holly, Eryngium 'Sapphire Blue'.


Just beginning to turn electric, and I do mean electric blue. It's a stunner.


Penstemon heterophyllus 'Electric Blue', also from Xera Plants. This should be renamed the Xera Plants Hell Strip.


Wowswers, how about that color? The Arctostaphylos can be seen in the background here.


I found these yucca at a big box store last year mislabeled as Yucca filamentosa. I think we've determined they are Yucca gloriosa 'Variegata'. I have three in this hell strip and they are all doing quite well. Blue fescue 'Beyond Blue' on the right. A very good cultivar in my book.


The grass is Carex comans 'Green', yes, from Xera.


The large-leaved plant is another sea holly, Eryngium giganteum or Miss Willmott's Ghost. Edelweiss in the foreground.


Detail of edelweiss.




Sedum, yucca, blue-eyed grass and seedlings.


Carex comans 'Green', Miss Willmott's Ghost, edelweiss, yucca, penstemon, what's not to love? It all does really well with virtually zero supplemental water, I might add. This is the xeriscaped hell strip. The soil is basically clay amended with organic compost and gravel.


Self-sown foxglove, Arctostaphylos x densiflora 'Harmony', Philadelphus lewisii.


Sedum 'Carl' and blue fescue 'Beyond Blue' again.


This is about the extent of the garden, quite small. There is a bit more out of frame, but not much.


Salvia purpurea is doing well this year. It's a hit or miss plant around here.


Here's the other half as seen looking north. Eryngium 'Electric Blue on the left corner, native asters have taken over the right corner. I have to really keep them in check and, yes, they self-sow everywhere in cracks nearby but I don't mind.


Pigeon's eye view looking south.


 There is the blue garden! Small, but coming along. Admittedly, there are purples, silvers and even pinks as in the thyme in this photo, but the main colors are blue-ish. I am trying to loosen up my confining color ways a bit, but I do insist on some color harmony.

There are a few other "color gardens" we'll visit at Chickadee Gardens this season: The orange garden, the white shade garden, the purple and pink hot garden, and the other hell strip garden in pink. We saw the yellow garden last May but may revisit again this year. There's also the chocolate garden, we must not forget that.

It's fun to garden like this and, in all honesty, I am not that uptight about color - rather, I am fussy about color harmony and making the whole thing feel balanced.

That's it for this week at Chickadee Gardens. Thank you so much for reading and until next time, happy gardening. I do hope you're having great spring weather wherever you are and no floods, no cold weather, rather - just good ol' sunshine and spring breezes.





34 comments :

  1. Wow! Your blue garden is looking great. I love eryngium as well and Penstemon 'Electric Blue' is one of my faves! My hell strips look pretty much like your before pictures.

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    1. Thanks Peter! I find it hard to believe anything looks as barren as my "before" pics here. I'll have to check with Alison on that one, my friend :)

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  2. That's a beautiful Yucca! I have two Arctostaphylos from Xera that I planted near the street last year, they survived being watered all summer actually, and this year are doing fine. The reason they got watered is because they were planted with a bunch of other plants that I needed to "water till established." It was hard to avoid watering them too, because the sprinkler was on a timer. Hell strips are such a harsh environment, but you've done a great job with yours.

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    1. Thanks Alison! Yes, the fussiness of certain plants is a pain sometimes but worth it. This arcto gets a bit of the same treatment but has come through fine. Yay! Thanks for the encouragement, it's been a tough go getting this garden to look even remotely "ok" but I think we're on the road to blueness.

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  3. It looks great Tamara and the plants have melded together so well :) although a few losses those that survived and thrived are a great selection!

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    1. Thanks, Guys! They are playing nicely, aren't they? :) The losses...oh, the losses. I choose to forget about it (most of the time) for losses mean simply more plant shopping, right?

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  4. It really is looking great! You should call it your "electric blue" garden because that seems to be a common cultivar name there. :)

    Also, do all eryngium blooms have that not very pleasant fragrance, or is it just the one I have? Love the look, hate the smell!

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    1. You're right, Alan! Re: fragrance...hmm, I have not noticed that. It's just you, Alan...hahah...just kidding :) Really, though - I haven't noticed but I'll go out and sniff my eryngiums tonight and report back.

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    2. OK Alan....no stinky fragrance I could detect last night; perhaps it ripens with age. I'll check back later in the season.

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  5. The blues and grays are showing wonderful together, but I also like your Callistemon viridiflorus, a beauty.

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    1. Oh, that Callistemon is a beauty. I highly recommend it if you can find one, Janneke :)

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  6. That's one good-looking hell strip. That Callistemon just made it to my plant wish list. I love the 'Electric Blue' Penstemon too but I'm less sure of its chances here.

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    1. Why, than you Kris! As I said to Janneke, if you can find that Callistemon buy it, you won't regret it :)

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  7. I absolutely love this blue garden!!! The blue penstemon, electric blue Eryngium, Arctostaphylos and Callistemon viridiflorus are perfect, stunning...if I had the chance I would buy those same plants right now, but there is no way I can find them here in Spain, hehehe.
    I can´t wait to see the other color themed gardens...specially the chocolate one!!

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    1. Aw, thanks Lisa! If I could ship them all to Spain for you I would do it in a heartbeat. The other color themes are on the way...probably later this summer but they will be coming! Cheers!

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    2. Thanks! I also tried once to obtain edelweiss from seed but i failed...maybe it is time to try again. Enjoy your blue garden!!

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  8. I had no idea you were a color Nazi. ;) My hell strip somehow ended up with every color under the sun, blooming all at once. I never would have "planned" it, but it has been my favorite spot all spring. Go figure. That Pentstemon is gorgeous. I have Echinops, but no Sea Holly. Another to add to the list.

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    1. Oh yes, Mindy. It's a problem :) No, not really but yes kind of. See? I AM neurotic in a plant way. Well, sometimes these things get planned and sometimes they just happen, often times the unplanned ones hold the most magic like yours does. GO GET that penstemon, it would be FAB in your garden. It's at Xera - or was last year, probably at P. Nursery too. Oh, and the sea holly...oh baby! GREAT for the hot dry hell strip.

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  9. Your hellstrip looks *great* and I love all those blues together. Xera is the best! I, too, am a fan of the color-themed gardens & look forward to seeing the rest.

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    1. Why thank you Kate! That's very kind of you to say! I have to agree that Xera is the best, those people really are the friendliest and most knowledgeable and do have the best plants for our climate. They do great work and they are (as you can tell) my go-to choice for most of my plants although I haven't done much plant shopping this year (haven't needed to...can that be right?). Glad I have a comrade in the color department, more to come! Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  10. It looks marvelous! I love every bit but especially the Eryngium bourgatii. I've got three and never had a single bloom.

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    1. Thanks Danger! That means a lot coming from you ;) I wonder why yours have never bloomed, interesting. This has been in for two years now....hmm...

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  11. I'm amazed...your hell strip looked completely pulled together when we visited for the Fling. I guess when you mention a pink hell strip, that must be where the Spirea douglasii are? I planted one after seeing yours.

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    1. Thanks, Rickii. It was doing ok last year but I lost a few key players since then. The pink hell strip, yes - that is where the Spirea douglasii are, good memory. I'm glad you planted some - how are they doing? They are taking over my bed, but that's ok!

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  12. Wowee, i love your hellstrip! You are reminding that I need some sea hollies very very badly!

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    1. You DO need some sea hollies very very badly!

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  13. I'm just getting to my hellstrip, and wrote a little about it today in my plant lust post. This is inspiring, and I do hope you'll consider it flattery if I borrow some of your great ideas.

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    1. I DO consider it flattery Patricia, thank you :) Borrow away, I'm most flattered!

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  14. I think you just took the hell out of hellstrip - it is GORGEOUS! Love the Penstemon and the E. bourgatii. (Why does that name make me think of an Italian motorcycle or something...?) My Callistemon viridiflora bloomed for the first time this year too. Totally stoked! :)

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    1. Aaaw, thanks Anna, you are too kind. The bourgatii, I thought the same, it sounds quite Italian and made me want an espresso. hahahah....Oh, those Callistemons are to die for, aren't they? Yay!

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  15. Your hell strip is now a little slice of heaven. Amazing when it all comes together. I think the bourgatii is my favorite eryngo too, beautiful marbling to the dissected leaves, unless that's shade dappling! I've never had it bloom here but need to try again.

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    1. Thanks, Denise! I must give credit where it's due, that's with the plants. They are amazing, and they do their thing when given the right circumstances, I guess. The bourgatii is incredible and it is marbling, and so so lovely. I hope you can get it to bloom! Mine is in hot hell strip with little to no water and no fertilizer...really tough hot conditions.

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  16. Wow, you are such a fabulous garden designer. Your plants look so good next to each other. The Yucca with the Eryngium, the Sisyrinchium with the blue-eyed grass... go on. Your photos are the kind that really teach us about garden design and show me how much I still have to learn. Great post.

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    1. Gosh, Grace...you make-a me blush :)
      I have so much to learn, the plants teach us all, really!
      I'm glad you enjoy the post, thank you for your kind words. We all learn from one another. Thank you thank you.... :)

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