It’s Chelsea time again so new trendy plants will come onto the scene. This year it seems that the Himalayan poppy (Meconopsis) is going to be a star. It’s made me reflect on how much blue we have in the garden at this time of year.
The Garden House has a long history with the Himalayan poppy, and it is one of a number of eye-catchers that help thread streams of blue through the garden in early summer. Lionel Fortescue, who owned The Garden House, was well known for being fanatical about colour and ruthlessly removing any plant that wasn’t performing well. In 1961 he was being interviewed for Country Life magazine; as the interviewer stopped to admire a large clump of what were then, extremely unusual poppies, Lionel leapt into the bed, hauled out an offending plant and threw it over his shoulder for a gardener to pick up. The interviewer was stunned and Lionel was quick to tell him, ‘sorry, but they are the wrong shade of blue.’
Back to today though, and after five decades the blue poppies share the limelight with wisteria, camassia and iris. Our Camassia ‘John Treasure’ is a particularly rich blue. It seems to have shot into life over the last week or so and it’s really caught my eye. I find camassia can be overwhelming in the borders and I’ve learn’t to just let them get on with it and plant to accommodate them. On the top lawn by the tea rooms they are growing mingled with peonies, which is certainly a pleasing look. I suppose we need to take some out really but they are almost too good to get rid of.
Irises are always popular at Chelsea as they aren’t too hard to bring on a bit early and plenty of them are in flower at the end of May and into June naturally. You’ll see blue iris in a number of places through the garden. In the summer garden we’ve used them as part of the drift planting and created a double line of blue with Geranium ‘Rozanne’ which is particularly effective amongst the grasses.
Our wisteria has given us a long show from white through blue to lilac this year and I think there is more to come. The house has been draped since mid April and the bridge is looking good now and for another couple of weeks. Perhaps you saw that wisteria was voted one of the top five best-loved plants by Gardener’s World magazine readers? It doesn’t surprise me as I’m always answering questions about it and stepping out of the way as visitors take photos of wisteria on our walls.
So there you have it, a quick overview of the key blue plants adding colour to the garden this week. The sun is shining and the birds are singing so I’m back off into the garden – where I might take another look at those camassias and see if I can be as ruthless as Lionel Fortescue.