Agapanthus

Words & Pictures: Lucy Masters

What’s to like

It’s not only that the flowers are a beautiful shape and colour that make this plant so
wonderful. It is also the stridently pure and simple strap leaves along with the tear shaped flower buds. They bring such joy that when I am Prime Minister I shall pass a law that every sunny garden should have at least one in it.

What’s not to like

Snails hide in their leaves. It’s the perfect place to shelter and multiply. The leaves are
usually left uneaten, but only a foolish snail would eat it’s home.

What to do with them

Grow in full sun. Well drained soil. Happy in a pot. Protect with a dry mulch over winter if you live somewhere cold.

Eryngium

Words & Pictures: Lucy Masters

What’s to like

They’re a dramatic and different shape to have in the border. Depending on the variety
you choose, they are also often surprisingly blue. (I refuse to consider the new Neptune’s. Gold as anything but unspeakable) Bees and butterflies love them. They make excellent cut flowers – either just as is or you can dry them and then they’ll last even longer.

What’s not to like

They can fall over so need staking if you don’t want them just lying forlorn on the ground.

What to do with them

Full sun and well drained soil, otherwise very easy and trouble free.

Mysotis

Forget-me-not

Words & Pictures: Lucy Masters

What’s to like

They are so sweet and pretty, a real little darling of spring. They self seed, come up in abundance, flower madly and then you need to rip them out to give the early summer plants room. It doesn’t matter ripping them up and composting, they still come back. I can testify to this as my garden is full of them and I’m always pulling them up.

What’s not to like

The leaves get mildewy as the flowers fade. Also, the flowers fall off leaving tall twiggy spikes. It’s all rather untidy frankly.

What to do with them

Buy one, plant and you’re done for years. Rip up and throw on the compost heap with abandon.

Cornflowers

Words & Pictures: Lucy Masters

What’s to like

The colour. Oh, it’s just so intensely blue and beautiful. The flowers are neat and prettily perfectly formed, they are little dots of blue beauty for the garden. Incredibly easy to grow from seed. Loved by bees and butterflies.

What’s not to like

They are a bit tall and leggy. Best to plant in the middle of lots of other plants to hide that. It’s an annual so you will have to replant any year you want them.

What to do with them

In spring sow the seeds and marvel at your horticultural aptitude. Deadhead regularly and you will get flowers all summer long.

Nigella

Words & Pictures: Lucy Masters

What’s to like

Easy gap fillers with very unusual, almost alien flowers that are a pure blue and delicate ferny leaves. I went through a stage of a few years of being mad on Nigella because they were so darn easy to grow. A great combination is with pillar box red Geums.

What’s not to like

Can be a boring self-seeder so you get great patches of them and anything en masse is too much.

What to do with them

They are easy to grow from seed and once you have them….you have them.

Geranium x magnificum

Words & Pictures: Lucy Masters

What’s to like

There are so many geraniums to choose from but this is quite an unsung hero. It has really dark purple blue flowers with fantastic inky veins. They also have amazingly big, hairy flower buds that look like gooseberries. Doesn’t sound that appealing but strangely it is.

What’s not to like

Like a lot of geraniums it has a relatively short flowering season. It can also get a straggly look if not cut back.

What to do with them

They grow almost anywhere, even in shade although they will flower less. Quite vigorous growers so good as ground cover. As usual mulching in Spring and Autumn with give your better, brighter plants.

Caryopteris x clan.

Words & Pictures: Lucy Masters

What’s to like

It’s a pretty shrub for a sunny spot. It’s not a knock you out, sing from the tree tops kind of thing but it’s perfectly acceptable to have for a prolonged visit in the garden. Silvery green leaves and sweet, slightly tufty blue flowers in the summer.

What’s not to like

It spends quite a lot of time, whilst it’s not flowering, being just a slightly spindly shrub with thin, slightly spindly leaves.

What to do with them

Sunny spot with well draining soil. To stop it getting even more spindly and sticky cut back the previous seasons growth to an inch from the ground. New branches will grow and it’s these one’s that flower

Aqueligia vulgaris

Words & Pictures: Lucy Masters

What’s to like

I think Aqueligia, along with Foxgloves, are one of the first plants that children learn to recognise. They have such a distinctive and interesting shape and flower right at the start of Spring when nothing much else happens. Once you’ve recognised them, I think you take ownership of them and that leads to a kind of love that is never forgotten.

What’s not to like

There’s nothing much wrong with these dainty beauties. The big overblown Aqueligia caerula with the fat white middles is a different matter, for who amongst us likes a fat white middle…

What to do with them

Good for a dappled shaded spot. They like well rotted manure added to the soil. Can self seed so deadhead if you’ve enough in your garden.

Pulmonaria

Words & Pictures: Lucy Masters

What’s to like

They are a useful ground cover for shady areas. They flower early in spring and add some much needed colour to the early Spring garden.

What’s not to like

For a shady garden these are brilliant but to be honest, if you don’t need them you wouldn’t bother. Or is that just me?

What to do with them

They can suffer from Mildew. If that happens cut back the affected leaves, water and feed and they should regenerate fine. They will scorch if planted in full sun.

Brunnera

Words & Pictures: Lucy Masters

What’s to like

These are posh Forget-me-Nots. The blue of the flowers is deeper and richer. The leaves are more elegant and don’t get mildew. They flower their striking blue blooms at a very bleak time of the year when there isn’t much colour around making them a god send.

What’s not to like

Nothing, they are almost perfect. Perhaps each flower could be a little bigger and last a little longer.

What to do with them

They like a good mulch of well rotted farm yard manure in the autumn. Lift and divide the plant every two or three years to keep it happy and healthy.

Echinops

Words & Pictures: Lucy Masters

What’s to like

The tight round flower heads are a different, bold shape for the border which is a good thing. If you plant them at the back of the border at least their moth eaten leaves are hidden. If you plant with Rosa Ballerina at least they are near-ly pretty.

What’s not to like

If I’m honest I’m not really mad on Echinops. The flower heads are too sterile and unpretty. However, bees and butterflies love them, so I bow to their greater authority.

What to do with them

Plant in full sun and well drained soil. Keep flower heads on over winter for added interest. Otherwise very easy and low maintenance.

Ceanothus

Words & Pictures: Lucy Masters

What’s to like

I have a soft spot for Ceanothus. It was the first plant I ever learnt to recognise after I started working in the garden centre and it’s the only plant I have managed to teach my husband. The best time I have ever seen it growing was when it was planted with Forsythia. I know what you’re thinking, but really the blue and yellow flowering together was something wonderful.

What’s not to like

The leaves can be very dark and if you’re not careful are a sullen presence in the garden. Also, I hate to say it, but they are used a lot in municipal planting schemes these days.

What to do with them

Plant anywhere warm and sunny. Each year after the plant has finished flowering cut back the shoots by one third.

Morning Glory

Words & Pictures: Lucy Masters

What’s to like

It has wonderful sky-blue flowers that look like the elegant, wanted sister of Bindweed. They are annuals so you don’t have the headache of most other climbers that need constant pruning and tidying.

What’s not to like

Equally, you go to all the trouble of growing the climber and covering the unsightly thing and it’s all gone by the next Spring.

What to do with them

They have to be grown from seed. Sow early in Spring in a sunny, sheltered spot. Keep well watered but otherwise they are easy and trouble free.

Scabiosa 'Clive Greaves'

Words & Pictures: Lucy Masters

What’s to like

‘Clive Greaves’ might be the most beautiful colour in the gardening world. It is such an elegant lavender blue it makes you want to weep at the site of it. It’s also a pretty ‘pincushion’ shape.

What’s not to like

It’s tricky and difficult to grow (I think) and I have always struggled with it. Maybe that’s why I love it so. There are easier varieties – Butterfly Blue is very small (0.4m high) and it flowers with abandon, not the same colour though.

What to do with them

It needs a very free draining site and full sun. Deadhead regularly to prolong flowering.

Meconopsis

Words & Pictures: Lucy Masters

What’s to like

Blue poppies – what more can one say but those two amazing words – blue poppies….. Actually, have sat and thought for a while and realise there is nothing more enchanting to say than blue poppies…. blue poppies, blue poppies…..

What’s not to like

You may have to content yourself with looking at a picture of one as you probably can’t grow it. Meconopsis are the temperamental stars of horticulture, notoriously difficult and bad tempered.

What to do with them

They like it cool and moist, in fact they insist on it being cool and moist otherwise they just won’t grow.

Aconitum 'Spark's Variety'

Words & Pictures: Lucy Masters

What’s to like

Huge flower spikes of rich purpley-blue that soar up to 1.5m. It’s an amazing sight for the middle to late summer. Surprising for something so tall, they rarely need staking. Also, they are perfectly happy in a partially shaded spot.

What’s not to like

All parts of these Monkshoods are poisonous so wear gloves and take care.

What to do with them

They like a rich soil, so add some mulch each autumn. Plant at the back of the border and prepare to be delighted.

Ceratostigma

Words & Pictures: Lucy Masters

What’s to like

A small shrub for the middle of the border. It’s notable because right in the middle of Autumn when everything is burnished reds and golds Ceratostigma start flowering with the punchiest blue ever. That is it’s charm.

What’s not to like

That is also it’s failing. It is a wonderful breath of colour yet it can look discordant amidst all the softer, subtle earth tones.

What to do with them

Best to cut back in mid-spring. Prune to within 2.5cm of the old growth and then add some well rotted manure – they like that.