Gardening: Going blue for 2020

By Nancy Szerlag
Special to The Detroit News

It's time for the  “what’s in and what’s out and what’s hot and what’s not" columns. We know already that the Pantone color of the year for 2020 is Classic Blue – the color of the sky at sunset.  I’d call it medium.

 If I were to look for that color to use in the garden, my first thought would be a Delphinium. Medium blue delphiniums are stunning, and the most beautiful collections I have ever seen were in the classic perennial borders found in England.  And while Pantone says it’s a restful color, a blue delphinium in full bloom will set start my heart racing. The display of delphiniums at  London’s Chelsea Flower Show in May is mind-blowing.

Blue Chiffon Rose of Sharon from Proven Winners.

In reality there aren’t many true-blue perennials available; most we call blue are actually purple.

The Zone 5 Ajuga reptans ‘Black Scallop’ puts forth beautiful 4- to 6 -inch spikes from dark, almost black, compact foliage in spring. Unlike other ajugas, it’s a slow grower and can be used as edger. It’s also good for containers.  

 The hardy Amsonia ‘Blue Star’ produces gorgeous blue buds that burst into clusters of periwinkle blue star- shaped flowers in late spring. The attractive green foliage turns to feathery gold in fall.  It’s a North American native and said to be deer resistant.

Baptisia ‘Blue Bubbly,’ also known as False Indigo, flowers in shades of blue in late spring or early summer on tall stems of 4 to 4 ½ in height. It, too, is a hardy perennial that is deer resistant and native to North America.

Some of the blue annuals on my list to grow are Nigella and Bachelor Buttons. These pretties grow best from seed direct sown in the garden. If deadheaded, Bachelor buttons have a rather long bloom time and a second sewing extends the flower production even longer.

Nigella ‘Miss Jekyll' produces exquisite quarter-sized blue flowers on 15-inch plants in full to part sun in late spring or early summer. They are said to reseed annually so I’m hoping a one-time planting of seed will do the job.

A favorite blue flowering shrub of mine is Proven Winners Color Choice ‘Blue Chiffon’ Rose of Sharon. In full sun, it will climb to 10 feet and be covered in lovely anemone-like blossoms for several weeks in summer.

Also, check out annual salvias for some gorgeous new blue varieties. These deer resistant beauties will bloom all season if placed in full sun.

 Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her a question go to and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at detroitnewscom/homestyle.