Adding blue as an accent color in your garden
Garden designers often recommend repeating an accent color in your garden to unify the design and add visual interest to keep the eye moving through your space. This could be a repeating color through flowers or foliage. Foliage is an effective way to add accents and to even do it year round with evergreens. Popular plant accent colors include blue, chartreuse and maroon. Today the hue is blue. Whether you need a blue ground cover, flower, shrub or tree, you can find native plants to add blue in your garden.
Blue false indigo (Baptisia australis)
This June blooming perennial has striking wands of clear blue flowers and is a native substitute in the Chesapeake for lupines (Lupinus) and hybrid delphiniums (Delphinium). The real value of these four foot high and wide perennials is the neat, upright and always fresh foliage. Blue foliage adds texture and color all summer long. This plant needs full sun and also grows by a tap root so it is extremely difficult to move once planted. This is one of the plants that got me hooked on native plants!
Mountain Mint (Pycanthemum muticum)
This perennial shows up in many Nuts for Native posts because it is so easy to grow, drought tolerant, thrives in full sun and is a pollinator magnet. Its foliage and small flowers lend a blue cast, particularly
when placed next to greens. This shutterstock image shows its true color in the garden.
Little Blue Stem 'Standing Ovation' (Schizachyrium scoparium 'Standing Ovation')
This is a three to four foot high grass for full sun and dry soils. Little blue stem "Standing Ovation" is a naturally occurring hybrid that has slender blue blades with red tips for gorgeous effect as shown in this shutterstock photo. This makes a great native substitute for the invasive Japanese blood grass (Imperata cylindrical 'Rubra'.) I don't have a lot of experience growing this having just added it to a bed at the curbside this year but so far it's taking full sun and little rain with no problem.
Blue wood sedge (Carex flaccosperma)
Blue wood sedge is a low growing carex. It grows in shade in a variety of soils. Those pictured here are growing in dry shade and are pretty tough. They add color through to the coldest months and then reappear afresh in spring. Bunny Blue sedge (Carex laxiculmus Bunny Blue® 'Hobb') is a similar narrow bladed low growing blue carex. It grows in shade in a variety of soils. This sedge prefers slightly moister soils. They add color through to the coldest months and then reappear afresh in spring.
Pussytoes (Antennaria plantaginifolia)
This very short ground cover is as tough a plant as there is. Here, plugs planted a year ago are growing in clay with rock and other debris in the dry soils. This plant blooms with small white flowers on 8" stems in spring but its ability to cover the ground is the strongest reason to plant it.
Silver sedge (Carex platyphylla)
This wider leaf sedge is my favorite blue carex. The ribbon like leaves add a pop of light blue color and texture that is more distinctive. It grows in part sun or partial shade. Once established, it will grow in dry shade. A really beautiful perennial plant.
Dwarf Fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenii)
This three to four foot high shrub has unique white spring flowers and the leaves have a bluish cast through much of the season. It grows about 4 feet high in full sun or part shade and needs moister soils. Leaves turn to brilliant shades of red and yellow in fall. This shrub is native in North Carolina south so technically not native to the Chesapeake though very close. That's an entire topic for another day!
Grey Owl Juniper (Juniperis Virginiana 'Grey Owl')
This lower growing evergreen shrub is a hybrid of the easter red cedar tree and provides blue color year round. It grows to three feet high and up to six feet wide in full sun. It is described by the Missouri Botanical Garden as the most drought tolerant evergreen conifer native to the eastern U.S.
Sweetbay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana)
Sweetbay magnolia has green leaves with silver undersides and the tree reads blue when planted in the garden. This native magnolia grows about twenty feet tall and can be trained to grow in single trunk form or as a multi-stemmed large shrub or tree. It grows in moister soils, takes full sun and part shade and can grow in clay soil. It is readily available in local nurseries. The scent of the flowers is sublime.
Contrast, whether it be color, texture or shape is always a good thing in the garden. Blue adds it subtly.