Using Blue in the garden.

I think there can be very few objections to using Blue in a garden. Surveys show that the colour is associated with harmony and confidence. It is the colour of the sky and the sea and in polls in the US and Europe, it is by far the most popular colour. It does have some negative connotations – “feeling blue”, “blue with cold”, and in some cultures it is the colour of mourning. But it does have many other happier associations – blue chip companies, bluestockings, blue blood, true blue and so on. The colour range is fairly wide – it can be a pale, cool Blue Cool blue in the garden or a deep, warmer Blue.

Cool, calm and serene – Blue with greys, lavenders and whites. Blue is a primary colour, but unlike the other showy primaries, Yellow and Red, it has a recessive, calmer quality in the garden. It is often placed towards the end of a border to increase the impression of distance. It has a soothing quality, especially when placed amongst lots of green foliage .. perhaps next to a contemplative pond or quiet seating area. An all- blue garden may sound tempting, but Gertrude Jekyll, the Edwardian gardening guru, wisely warned against it in her ‘Colour Schemes for the Flower Garden’ : ” A blue garden, for beauty’s sake, may be hungering for a group of white lilies … any experienced colourist knows that the blues will be more telling – more purely blue – by the juxtaposition of rightly placed complementary colour.” Try combining blue with lavender or grey , such as Stachys or Santolina with Delphiniums and Veronica, for subtle, restful combinations and to create depth in the border. When using a narrow range of colours, the trick is to go for contrasting heights, shapes and textures – the spikes of foxgloves or lupins with irises, Eryngiums or Echinops.

Blue is often used in combination with white in tasteful Show gardens, creating a serene, elegant look. At Chelsea and at Bloom this year, blues, mauves and purples were some of the predominant colours. Mount Usher Aug 2013 136 I never tire of these kind of gardens but sometimes just a little more drama is required.

Creating drama – Blue with its complementary colour orange. Colour plays a leading role in Van Gogh’s later paintings. He studied Charles Blanc’s colour theory in “Grammaire des Arts du Dessin”  with its  emphasis on primary colours, Red, Yellow and Blue and the strong impressions created when combined with their complementary colours Green, Purple and Orange.

Notice how Van Gogh created impact by using Blue with its complement Orange in this painting. Van Gogh colour theoryA predominantly blue border may look bland. But look how it pops with the addition of orange as an accent colour. Burtown Or another warm colour, Yellow,  to add a touch of vibrancy. Blue and yellow border In fact blue is a really good mixer – with yellow, orange, pink and lime-green.

Seasonal blues

In Spring, blue forget-me-nots or muscari have a stabilising effect when mixed with the vivid appearance of tulips or daffodils.  There are hyacinths, bluebells and wood anemones too. Blue muscari with pink tulips Then we await the appearance of irises and delphiniums in Summer, with Geranium ‘Johnson’s Blue’ or ‘Rozanne’, Polemoniums, Salvias , Veronica and Anchusa azurea.

And to take you into Autumn are Asters, Cerastostigma and Aconitum. And of course there are the climbing plants such as Clematis or the glaucous foliage of Melianthus major or Hosta sieboldiana, the deep blue of the shrub Ceonothus, Vincas, crocuses and so on…

So Blue

  • is a primary colour
  • is a colour associated with harmony and confidence
  • has a cool recessive quality
  • appears elegant and serene with white and pastel shades
  • is calming in a scheme
  • is enlivened when mixed with its complementary Orange
  • creates a feeling of distance when placed at the end of a border
  • has a stabilising effect when used with “hot” or bright colours

Blue will  also add a little romance to your garden. How you capitalise on that is up to you.

13 thoughts on “Using Blue in the garden.

  1. Nice examples and many of the plants I choose too. I love blue in the garden and am always on the lookout for new blues on the market. I really have to add Echinops. It is such a cool plant, pardon the pun. I love Allium and Echinops would extend the form into another season.


    • Thanks a lot Donna, editing out the blue examples was hard. I too love Alliums, can’t imagine my garden without them, and this year the Echinops have made a good show to follow them, with their steely blue presence.


  2. Ah so lovely! I’m not feeling “blue” at all looking at these stunning images. 😉 I love the color blue, it’s so peaceful. ❤
    My new bike is blue! 😀


  3. Pingback: Colour in my Garden. | Jardin

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