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Breeding Perfect Plants

Dress Your Garden in Classic Blue

By Susan Martin for Proven Winners
Photographs courtesy of Proven Winners

When Proven Winners has polled plant enthusiasts like you over the past decade about their favorite colors, blue has consistently ranked in the top five responses. You might call it a “classic” color for the garden, which is exactly how the Pantone Color Institute is describing it in this year’s color trends report. “Classic Blue is a timeless and enduring blue hue, elegant in its simplicity,” says Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute. She goes on to describe it as lending itself to “relaxed interaction” and providing an “anchoring foundation.” Let’s explore how those ideas relate to blue in the garden.

Relaxing Blues

GardenSMART Article Image Blue flowers used in container combinations like Storm Shadow (left) and Neptune (center) create a calming mood in outdoor living spaces.

We agree with Eiseman—Classic Blue is a wonderfully relaxing color for decorating outdoor living spaces. Garden designers and home stylists have long used blues and soft purples to create calming, inspired spaces for their clients to enjoy. These cool tones possess a Zen-like energy which is completely different than more powerful reds and pinks.

Not all shades of blue have the same effect in the garden. The “anchoring foundation” Eiseman describes relates to darker shades of blue like Pantone’s Classic Blue, royal blue or navy blue. Deep purples have a similar effect. Dark colors add depth to a design; they visually anchor the space. You might use a deep purple Sweet Caroline Raven™ sweet potato vine as a trailing accent in a container recipe, or the royal blue flowering Decadence® ‘Sparkling Sapphires’ false indigo in the landscape to anchor the bed.

Softer shades of blue like those found in Tuff Stuff Ah-Ha® hydrangeas or Superbena® Stormburst have the opposite effect—they tend to visually recede or look further away than they really are. You’ll notice bright reds and oranges long before light blues or purples in the landscape because warm colors visually advance or look closer. This trick of the eye can be used to your advantage. For example, you could use light shades of cool blue to make a space, like a small patio, feel larger or more open.

Who Wouldn’t Love More Blue Flowers?

GardenSMART Article Image Decorate your garden with Classic Blue using these flowers (clockwise from top left): Blue My Mind® evolvulus, Magic Show® ‘Wizard of Ahhs’ spike speedwell, Blue Chiffon® rose of Sharon, ‘Stand by Me’ bush clematis.

Perhaps more than any other time in history, there is a plethora of blue flowers to choose from for our gardens. The once-elusive true blue can now be found in several species, and shades of “horticultural blue” (almost blue, but with some purple hues) abound. Four of our favorites are pictured above and you’ll find many more here.

Blue pairs easily with most other colors, but by studying the two container recipes below, you’ll get a better feel for your own color preferences. 

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This Afternoon Tea recipe combines bluish purple Superbells® and Supertunia® flowers with yellow Supertunias—opposites in the color world. These contrasting colors make us stop and notice the details in the flowers, like the starry yellow centers of Superbells® Evening Star™. Our eyes dart back and forth between the blue and yellow tones, slowly taking all that beauty in. Contrasting colors like these are especially effective in patio container recipes that are viewed up close. 

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This My Fair Lady recipe combines the purplish blue Rockin’® Playin’ the Blues® salvia with the magenta pink of Supertunia® Lovie Dovie™ petunias—close neighbors in the color world. Since pink and blue are more closely related than yellow and blue, our eye takes them in as one harmonious planting rather than focusing on the differences. Such related color combinations are especially effective when viewed from a distance.

Blue Planters Make a Comeback

GardenSMART Article Image Sky blue patio planters help to create a soothing space to relax after a long day. Container recipe: Bermuda Skies

Expect to see blue make a resurgence in the garden pottery category over the next few years as Pantone’s Classic Blue is trending. That’s good news for those of us who still have our cobalt blue planters from the last time they were so popular. (Everything comes around again—i.e. jeggings, anyone?) Eiseman calls Classic Blue a “timeless and enduring shade of blue,” and we agree, it never goes out of style in the garden. We especially love the pure blue tones of Michael Carr Designs pottery.

Use the color tips we’ve described above to create contrasting or harmonious color pairings with your blue patio planters. To keep the relaxing vibe going, choose cool colored flowers—blues, purples, chartreuse or white. To bring more energy to the space, go with brighter blue planters filled with vibrant red, magenta or gold flowers.

A Blue Welcome

GardenSMART Article Image Greet your guests with a splashy new blue door this season. Behr’s Deep Sapphire Blue paint will have you singing the blues while you paint. Container recipes: Sunglasses (left) and Forever Gold (right)

Although so many houses look similar in suburbia today, it’s easy to add character with a fresh coat of paint. Why not change things up this season by painting your front door blue? Blue coordinates well with many common siding colors like white, grey or tan and creates an interesting contrast with brick. Bring home a stack of blue paint chip samples from the paint store before you buy and choose the shade that inspires you most.    

In the example above, we’ve paired contrasting yellow Superbells® calibrachoa and Toucan® cannas with our blue door, and added some hot pink Supertunia® petunias for a harmonious touch. Tap the links to the container recipes above to see exactly how to recreate this look on your own front porch.

Add a Dash of Blue

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If a full color renovation isn’t in the budget this year, take a look around your house or at discount stores for small blue accents you can bring outdoors. Here, a blue throw paired with blue and green patterned pillows quickly brings this garden bench up to date. Rockin’® Playin’ the Blues® salvia and Supertunia® Royal Velvet® petunias add more splashes of vibrant blue. Wouldn’t you love to spend a few minutes relaxing here?

Looking for more ideas? Check out this Classic Blue Pinterest board and follow Proven Winners on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.

Susan Martin is an avid zone 6 gardener, garden writer and speaker who enjoys spreading her passion for plants to her fellow gardeners across North America.

Patent Info: Sweet Caroline Raven™ Ipomoea USPPAF CanPBRAF; Decadence® 'Sparkling Sapphires' Baptisia USPP27904 CanPBRAF; Tuff Stuff Ah-Ha® Hydrangea USPP29832 CanPBRAF; Superbena® Stormburst Verbena USPP29640 CanPBRAF; Blue My Mind® Evolvulus USPP24447 Can4918; Magic Show® 'Wizard of Ahhs' Veronica USPPAF CanPBRAF; Blue Chiffon® Hibiscus USPP20574 Can3583; 'Stand by Me' Clematis USPP30556 CanPBRAF; Superbells® Evening Star™ Calibrachoa USPP30837 CanPBRAF USUtility9313959; Rockin'® Playin' the Blues® Salvia USPP29604; Supertunia® Lovie Dovie™ Petunia USPP29663 Can6056; Supertunia® Royal Velvet® Petunia USPP13887 Can1039


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By Delilah Onofrey, Suntory Flowers
Photographs courtesy of Suntory Flowers

As summer transitions to fall, one plant that will still be in its glory is bracteantha “Granvia Gold.” Delilah has written a great article about this plant. click here to read.


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