Third in the series “First Dates: Plants I’m Trying This Year.”
When I saw the rich blue flowers of Anchusa ‘Dawn Mix’ featured in the catalogue, I knew I would soon be parted from my buck and a quarter.
Seed catalogue writers and designers know what they are doing. What gardener can resist any blue flowers, let alone those so sumptuously saturated? I am assured of having some pink and white flowers as well (the ‘mix’ part), but it’s the blue flowers that sell me.
Anchusa, or bugloss, is a borage relative native to Europe, West Asia, and Africa. The variety I am growing is perennial, although there are annual and biennial types as well. They grow 4-5 feet tall and are frankly a bit rangy, but like the awkward kid in the elementary school class picture, they can be stuck at the back of the border to peek over the heads of their shorter, more picturesque classmates.
These plants, like their borage relatives, are said to be attractive to bees (they like the blue color), and are a food source for butterfly larva (another good reason to stash them at the back of the border, where any chewed leaves will be less noticeable). Anchusas like it hot and dry, conditions that I can provide in summer, although there is some question as to how well they’ll cope with summer humidity.
As often happens when I research a plant’s site requirements, it seems I can find few definitive answers to my questions. With Anchusa, it appears that some strains of the plant ask very little of the gardener by way of environmental accommodation: Any place with a bit of sun will do. Others seem persnickety, wanting silty, free-draining soil but constant moisture. Some reseed politely, some can only be propagated by cuttings.
It seems like a typical first date: I’m not quite sure what to expect. It probably won’t be anything like what I imagine. It may be better, or it may be worse. I’m willing to give it a little grace, however. All good long-term relationships must begin at the beginning.
Any blue flower gets my vote. I will look out for this one. If you enjoy blue flowers have you tried Camassias? They are in bloom now and seed about so you soon get a lovely blue crowd of them.
I have not yet tried Camassias, although they’re on my to-try list. Have you started them from seed, or do you start with bulbs and allow them to seed on their own? Camassias are not easy to come by in garden centers here, but they can be obtained through some of the better mail-order sources. I think they’d do quite well in my rain garden, which is flourishing entering its second year of life.
My Camassias were already in the garden but they seed around each year. They like a soil which doesn’t dry out. I am going to save seed this year to grow on for my orchard which I keep as a wild flower meadow. They look lovely naturalised in grass.