Our gardens in many lights

samedi 9 août 2014

Too blue to be true

Cet article en français.

Picture taken at the end of spring: hostas, painted ferns and forget-me-nots.
Hélène :
It's not althoghether absent, but you may have noticed that, in the vegetal world, true blue is quite rare. Forget-me-nots shown in the picture above are a good example of a true cloudless sky blue; borage could also claim to present a real hue of blue (and some other plants too, but I won't try to name them all).

In real life, this centaurea is a little more
purple than blue and its magenta center 
garanties it a good visibility. Cameras
don't always render colors accurately.
I heard somewhere that pollinators have trouble differenciating blue flowers from the sky and so, with evolution, many blue flowers have been put aside due to lack of pollination. Either true or false, my borage delights my bees! But the crux of the problem is that most gardening catalogs parade an impressive number of plants that are supposedly blue - their pictures often followed by a winning slogan saying it's the bluest of all. Like for top models however, pictures of flowers get their fair share or touch ups, especially on color.

This windflower is called a blue anemone and, according to the picture that was used to sell it, I didn't receive the right plant...

It's not only touch-ups that can alter the plant we expect to receive, however. The composition of your soil may also have a hand in the colouring of the flower. For example, some gardens will produce a peach colored flower while it was supposed to come out true pink. When we moved in our present house, there was a blue hydrangea - well, it should have been blue if the plant had been in an acidic soil - however the blooms came out in a sick shade of mauve speckeled with a blue flower here and there.

Louise: In my garden, I have yellow mums that flower extremely late (Chrysanthemum rubellum "Mary Stoker") and they do have that tendancy to shift hue. I saw some with a wonderful shade of pinkish yellow in some neighbours' yards.

In my own yard, they have distinct shades. Those planted near a wooden half-barrel belted with rusted metal are a beautiful burned-orange shade. Maybe the rusted metal saturated the soil with iron and just maybe the plant absorbed that in its tissues. With time, that plant became extremely big and sent shoots. The new growth as distanced itself from the wooden barrel. As a result, the flowers arbor 3 distinct shades with the furthest flowers showing a school-bus-yellow tint when mature.

All in all, if you buy plants from catalogs according to their pictures - and even if you can see them in person before you buy them - sometimes you will have quite a surprise when the plant is settled at your abode...
Mary Stoker mums (Chrysanthemum Rubellum) have a beautiful daisy shape. They flower later than other mum varieties and are so resistant to cold spells that they will last many a night under zero and can even withstand a few snowdrafts. The young flowers are pale yellow (look at the one further back) and change to a pretty rosy-yellow when they mature. But as we stated in this article, they really can vary shade depending on their position. Emerging through this mums bouquet, the brown balls on stems are the seeds of my rudbeckies hirta. At the foot of all that, there's sedum (Sedum Spectabilis).

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