After looking at hundreds of photographs of cottage gardens, I think it’s fair to say that the ones that I admire the most always feature a heavy dose of blue -blue geraniums lining a walkway or tucked in near the cottage edge or glorious Irises rising above a bed of phlox.   Blue flowers always seem like little jewels to me, transforming a lovely garden to the sublime. And chances are no matter which zone you live in, there is at least one special flower that can be your crowning jewel. Some options are:

  1. Larkspur or Delphinium
  • Type: Perennial
  • Zones: 3-7
  • Light: Full sun to light shade
  • Soil: Normal/Loamy, Moist but well-draining, Alkaline
  • Bloom Time: Early to Late Summer 

A staple of the English Cottage Garden, Delphiniums have spiked, showy flowers beginning in early summer. They prefer cool and moist summers and may struggle in the heat, though there are some newer cultivars that can tolerate heat better. They come in varieties from 2’ to 6’ tall. Except for the dwarf varieties, delphiniums will most likely need staking. You should also protect them from wind. Deadheading after blooming encourages new blooms. Cut delphiniums back to 1-2” after the first frost. You can divide delphiniums in spring every 3-4 years as they tend to grow in clumps.  Note: young delphiniums and delphinium seeds are poisonous so beware round children and pets. 

  1. Perennial Geranium or Cranesbill Geraniums
  • Type: Perennial
  • Zones: 4-8
  • Light: Full Sun to Partial Shade
  • Soil: Normal, well-drained soil – very hardy in most conditions
  • Bloom Time: Summer 

The Perennial  Geranium “Rozanne” produces vibrant blue flowers and will bloom all summer attracting lots of pollinators. Rozanne has a mounding habit with foliage that turns an attractive reddish color in the fall. Perennial geraniums are low growing, from 3” to 2’ tall. They spread by rhizomes up to a 4’ spread. This plant can get scraggly after blooming but if you cut it back it will grow back nicely. Perennial Geraniums are prone to mildew when they get too much water. They are also pretty disease resistant but do note that slugs are fond of young plants. You can divide the Perennial Geranium in spring.

      3. Siberian Bugloss Brunnera Macrophylla – also called False Forget-Me-Not

  • Type: Herbaceous Perennial
  • Zones: 3-8
  • Light: Part to Full Shade
  • Soil: Rich, Moist soil (often found on stream beds)
  • Bloom Time: April – May

Brunerra is a perennial ground cover with heart shaped foliage, often variegated. Brunerra blooms are small like a forget-me-not and bright blue, though short-lived. Varieties such as “Jack Frost” and “Langtrees” are quite popular due to the silver variegation in the leaves.  This perennial does really well in dappled woodland areas. They will get 12-15” tall and spread about 18” wide. To protect the crown through winter, add mulch and don’t cut Brunnera back until spring, prior to blooming.

 

  1. Grape Hyacinth Muscari
  • Type: Perennial Bulb
  • Zones: 3-9 (some say 4-8)
  • Light: Full Sun to Part Shade – grows best in Full Sun
  • Soil: Most any though prefers sandy soil that drains well
  • Bloom Time: Early to Late Spring depending on the variety

Grape Hyacinth is a bulb flower that can self-seed depending on the variety, making it perfect   for meadows. The Grape Hyacinth is aptly named because its flowers look like clusters of grapes.   It is a member of the Lily family and produces a vast array of blue blooms. They grow 4-8” tall with narrow green foliage. Each bulb produces one to three flower stalks. You can cut for indoor display but the foliage should not be cut back until it has yellowed and gone dormant.  If you are lucky, Grape Hyacinth will grow and bloom again into fall. Hyacinth also has a mildly sweet fragrance, making it a lovely early spring garden flower. The earliest blooming hyacinth is M. Azureum. The bloom time is short but these do self-sow. Another few to look for are: M. armeniacum, M. Neglectum “Valerie Finnis”, and M. comosum. Each offers its own unique look, all in beautiful shades of blue.

  1. Allium
  • Type: Bulb
  • Zones: 2-10 depending on the variety
  • Light: Full Sun
  • Soil: Any well-draining soil
  • Bloom Time: Late Spring through Summer – plant different varieties to prolong bloom time

Allium flowers are the ornamental members of the onion family. They are one of the easiest bulb flowers to grow as they are very hardy and can even grow in fairly dry conditions. Additionally, because they are members of the onion family, they are pretty resistant to rodents and deer due to their dislike of the sulfurous compounds released when chewed.  Allium needs to be planted in the fall and look spectacular planted in groups. Alliums grow on a long, leafless stalk and don’t take up much room, so it’s easy to tuck some in to bare spots in the sunny part of your garden. They attract pollinators too. Some varieties to look for are:

  • “Globemaster” and “Gladiator” – these varieties are the tallest alliums and produce large globe like blooms on stalks 3-4’ tall
  • Allium Azureum – produces true blue flowers  on 14-16” tall stalks. Makes a beautiful dried flower
  • “Blue Drumstick” – This variety produces cornflower blue blooms about 2” across on a stem 24” tall.  Easy to grow and naturalizes once established
  1. Clematis “Rhapsody”
  • Type: Deciduous Perennial Vine
  • Zones: 4-10
  • Light: Full Sun
  • Soil: Any though must be well-drained, Alkaline to Neutral pH
  • Bloom Time: Blooms in Summer then again in Fall

Clematis Rhapsody is a show stopper in the garden trained on a trellis or pergola.  The vine grows about 10-13’ in length and should be planted about 4’ apart.  This variety produces large blooms 4-6” across and sapphire blue in color. Rhapsody should be pruned early in Spring when the new buds start to show, removing all the dead material above the buds. The first blooms occur around mid-June. More blooms should open on the new shoots in early fall. Clematis is wonderful for attracting pollinators to your garden.

  1. Bluestar Amsonia
  • Type: Herbaceous Perennial
  • Zones: 5-8
  • Light: Full Sun to Part Shade
  • Soil: Average soil that drains well
  • Bloom Time: Spring

Bluestar is low maintenance plant once established. They can thrive in most any soil as long as it drains well, and once established Bluestar can survive brief periods of drought. This plant has long, needlelike leaves that turn golden in fall and small ½” star shaped flowers that bloom in clusters and are powdery blue. After blooming Amsonia produces interesting seed pods that add interest in the garden as well.  After flowering you can cut the stems back about 6” to help create a mounding habit but if you do this you will miss the seed pods.