For those of you who like the unusual in flowers, you might be interested in the blue orchid. There are many orchids that have deep purple flowers that may be called ‘blue’ but up until now there have never been any truly blue orchid flowers.
There is now a blue orchid known as Blue Mystique™. And even more recently, the Indigo Mystique™. These are Phalaenopsis orchids and the colors have been developed by a wholesale grower in Homestead Florida, Silver Vase.
Well, there us a question as to whether or not there are really blue orchids. Certainly if you want an orchid with eye-caching color, you can’t beat these new introductions. The remarkable colors are the result of what Silver Vase explains as its exclusive patented technology.
These plants are still new and unusual so they are likely to cost a little more than the ordinary Phalaenopsis orchid, but prices are going down. The infusion of color means that the open flowers will have the most intense colored flowers. Later opening buds can vary in color. New stems that will bloom in the future are likely to revert closer to the original, genetic color of the plant like white or fuchsia.
Perhaps this is nothing more than a longer lasting version of the old technique of placing cut flowers in water with concentrated food dye that is then sucked up into the flower petals, coloring them. The orchid genetics are not changed. If you don’t just throw out the plant after flowering like so many people do, and the plant flowers over coming years, it will likely revert to the ordinary orchid it is genetically programmed to be.
Not surprisingly, just like the usual Phalaenopsis, these blue orchids are easy for indoor gardening, given good light, careful watering and proper feeding in the right fast-draining potting medium. They can last for many years — just don’t expect them to remain blue.
Still, if you want an attention-getting orchid – the only true-blue orchid available, the Blue Mystique™ and Indigo Mystique™ are the orchids you want. You can find them in five inch pots at Silvervase.com or look for them at your local garden center or flower shop. They are becoming easily available as their popularity grows.
The colors you choose for your garden will help set the mood. Cool colors like blue and purple add a sense of calm and restfulness to the garden design. You can use blue-flowering plants to contrast with brighter, warm reds, yellows and oranges, or to blend with cooler purples, pinks and whites. Or you can plant a completely blue-flowering garden as a design statement. Blue flowers in pots can create an effect of their own. Here are some deep purple and true-blue flowers that do well in hot summer climates like the chaparral.
Verbena rigida (Rigid Verbena, Sandpaper Verbena or Tuberous Vervain) is a colorful groundcover plant that blooms in rich purple for a long flowering season. The leaves are coarse and tough with a sandy texture and the plant creeps and crawls with underground runners. Flowers are clustered in groups and grow from six to eighteen inches high. The color can be a vibrant violet. The Verbena rigida likes full sun and well-drained, lean soil, but it isn’t fussy about soil type. It thrives in high heat and is frost tolerant to 15 degrees Fahrenheit. This is an ideal plant to cover hills, slopes and open expanses. It has an informal habit of growth that will make it attractive in a natural garden. It can become invasive where happy and rambles too much to work well in a formal, controlled landscape design. In the right location, the Verbena rigida is an excellent choice for a water-wise garden, although it won’t mind if it gets regular water either. There are some other Verbenas that are also good for the chaparral garden and add blue-purple flower color. Verbena bonariensis (Tall Verbena) has a narrow, vertical habit of growth up to four feet tall and will decorate your garden with electric purple flowers that are very showy. Verbena officinalis (Common Vervain) likes a little more water and creates a low shrub of delicate, fern-like leaves with typical clusters of deep purple flowers. Then there’s the California native Verbena lilacina that has a low-growing, wandering habit on poor soils and needs low water to produce its medium to light purple flowers.
Two blue or purple herbs that look lovely in the drought-tolerant garden are rosemary and lavender. Both of these plants are perfect for places with a Mediterranean climate – their native home. They are woody shrubs that are happiest on lean soils in full sun. They also double as good sources for fragrance. There are many cultivars and hybrids to offer you different habits of growth.
Rosemary plants can be creeping ground covers or spill over a wall. Rosemary ‘Majorca Pink’ offers pink flowers and grows as a larger, sprawling shrub from two to three feet high and six feet wide. Rosemary ‘Ken Taylor’ is a neater growing rosemary shrub that stays at around two feet tall and blooms with sky blue flowers. There are many more choices in rosemary plants to fit into any design garden. All are edible and offer the typical rosemary scent and flavor for the kitchen or for crafts. All seem to love our spare soils, hot summers and scant rainfall. Give them a little supplementary irrigation.
Lavender also offers a wide selection of plants. The Lavendula stoeches is commonly called Spanish lavender and grows as a rounded shrub to about two feet tall with flowers that look like they are topped with feathers. Flowers can be magenta, purple, pink, white, green or combinations of any of these. The Spanish lavender is the most cold hardy. Other lavenders can be a bit frost shy. The favorite French lavender, Lavendula dentata will mature into a large bush of three to five feet tall and at least as wide. There are a number of cultivars with different shaped blue or white flowers and more variable heights. There are smaller varieties with different flower forms in shades of blue, purple and white. All have the typical scent of lavender used for sachets, candles and other crafts.
Rosemary and lavender are two attractive, low maintenance plants ideal for areas that do not experience hard frosts in winter. Give these plants full sun, plenty of heat in the summer, and good drainage. Rosemaries are likely to be more cold tolerant than lavenders. If you have pets, they will smell great romping through rosemary or lavender plants in your garden.
The Salvia (Sage) family is filled with marvelous plants for your garden. Edibles like common cooking sage become colorful with purple flowers and come in decorative (yet still edible) foliage with yellows, whites, purples and varied greens. Annual red, purple, white – and now pink — salvias fill in empty spots in borders. And the choices in show-stopping perennials from tiny delicate specimens to huge shrubs, moisture-loving gems to tough native chaparral denizens, soft, subtle colors to blazing intensities, are immense. I could have chosen any number of salvias to praise (and I’m likely to do so in future months since salvias are some of my favorite flowering plants). But, I decided to honor ‘Indigo Spires’ because it is one of the showier blue-flowered varieties in my garden that has made it through hot summers and cold winters. In fact, the plant can take temperatures down to 10′F (though it is a good idea to protect the roots with mulch under freezing and there will be some damage). ‘Indigo Spires’ will grow 3′ – 4′ tall and should be pruned down low at the end of the winter to assure a shapely form for the next season’s growth. The long spikes, thickly studded with rich purple flowers, can grow to 10″ long. If cut under water they are both beautiful and long lasting as cut flowers. They also retain their purple color when dried so they are great in dried flower arrangements. Cutting for either reason is a good idea since you need to cut the spent blooms off anyway or they will weight the slender stems down to the point of breakage and the plant will sprawl and look unkempt. Since the plant has a very long blooming season, you will have plenty of flowers. ‘Indigo Spires’ is said to take full sun, but I have had the most success with partial afternoon or lightly dappled shade in the hot summer sun of the chaparral. Slightly drought tolerant, the plant will take to regular watering as well. Salvia ‘Indigo Spires’ is a beauty in the mixed border or standing on its own — a true royal member of the sage family.
Most of these plants are not difficult to find at garden centers. They are showy and low maintenance and do not balk at hot, dry summers or poor soil. They will all look better with some occasional pruning to keep them in good shape. None need major soil amendments, copious water or feeding.
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