Perennials: Early spring blue

Ajuga in flower

Ajuga (or Bugleweed) is a common groundcover with exquisite blue flowers.

The rejoicing starts when the first perennials start blooming in the garden. And the fact that so many are blue—one of my favourite garden colors—is an added bonus.

Vinca's masses of blue flowers are a welcome sight in spring.

Vinca’s masses of blue flowers are a welcome sight in spring.

One of the first to bloom is vinca, (at left) a dead easy to grow ground cover that grows in shade. Roundabout now it’s completely covered in little blue flowers that bumblebees are happy to see. Be careful, it’s a true ground cover, so don’t plant it where you don’t want it to spread. It does well in the shade, and that’s another plus of vinca.

Another of my favourite spring blue-bloomers is Pulmonaria. It gets its common name lungwort from the circular pattern on its leaves that look a little like a cross section of a lung. The species comes out in flowers that are pink and blue. There’s also a fully blue variety, ‘Blue Ensign’. Bees really love them, and you can’t blame them, it’s their first meal after a long winter sleep. It’s an ideal garden perennial that the bees can feed from early in the season.

Nepeta is another blue perennial which, in my view, is a garden must. This is the ornamental catnip that grows in a neat little mound and has a blueish purple flowers that cascade in early spring. They flower little bit later than the lungwort and vinca. It’s almost as vigourous as any weed, but it’s not a thug. On the contrary, it has the good habit of seeding itself in places where you think “Why didn’t I think of planting it there?” That’s the mark of a truly good garden citizen. In any case they’re easy enough to pull away if they pop up in a spot where you don’t want them. But I always think where wouldn‘t you want it because it’s really that valuable in the garden. Don’t let the fact that it’s in the catnip family put you off: as it’s an ornamental form of catnip it’s not quite as pungent as the true herbal catnip the cats love. My cats stay away from, it but some truly catnip crazy cats may roll in it from time to time. Luckily, none of my neighbour cats seem to go for it at all.
Another blue spring bloomer which I would not want to be without is grape hyacinth, or muscari. These are spring bulbs, which of course we usually plant in the fall. But you can workaround that and plant them in the spring too. Buy blooming pots of them in the spring, and dig them into the garden wherever you’d like to see them.

Siberian Squill Scilla siberica close-up

Siberian Squill or Scilla grown in mass, which is how they look their best.

Of course the earliest spring bloomers are the Scillas or Siberian Squill. These are such a treasure when they’re in bloom in early April. I’ve been trying to cover a lawn with them for a few years and I think massed in the lawn is one of the best ways to see them. Enjoy them while they bloom, let the foliage die down, and then mow them sometime in (hopefully late) May when you do your first lawn mowing. Scilla seeds themselves liberally, which is one of their best characteristics. They like to live long and prosper. One of the best place to see the exuberant nature of scillas is on Toronto’s Rosedale Valley Road in April. The massive patch that has sown itself all down a slope is one of Toronto’s Seven (spring) wonders. You can feast your eyes on that here.

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