'Nikko Blue' French hydrangea at Jim Scott's Lake Martin, AL garden. Photo: Steve Bender

It's human nature. We disdain what is common and lust for what is rare. This is why gardeners drool over blue blossoms, because blue is the scarcest flower color of all. It also blends well with every other color. If you're lusting in your heart and soil for blue, here are six great plants to scratch that itch.

#1 -- French hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla). Thirty years ago, azaleas were the South's most popular shrubs. No more. They've been pushed to the curb by the many forms of French hydrangea, like 'Nikko Blue,' 'Big Daddy,' 'Dear Delores,' and 'Endless Summer.' Why? Because given acid soil, they bear huge blue blossoms for weeks in summer. Reblooming types like 'Endless Summer,' 'Dear Delores,' and 'Big Daddy' also bloom on both old and new growth, so even if a cold winter kills flower buds set last fall, new ones will open in spring and summer.

#2 -- Petunias

 

Deep blue petunias at Chance garden, Lafayette, Louisiana. Photo: Steve Bender

You won't have to look hard to find blue petunias. Go to your garden center and you'll see light blue ones, deep blue ones, and a host of shades in-between. The new hybrids, like Wave Blue, Supertunia Morning Glory Blue, and Surfinia Sky Blue, hold up much better to summer heat and humidity than their predecessors, so you can count on their flowers for months. Great in borders and pots. Plant in sun.

#3 -- Blue Fan Flower (Scaevola aemula)

 

Blue fan flower. Photo: Heidelberg Botanical Garden

While almost every Grumpy fan knows about petunias, not enough of you appreciate fan flower. Shame! Named for its fan-shaped flowers, this heat- and drought-tolerant annual also comes in colors of white and pink. But blue is the color you want. Fan flower grows about 12 inches tall and spreads 24 inches, so it's ideal edging a flower bed or cascading from window boxes and hanging baskets. Give it sun and good drainage and it'll bloom until frost. No need to remove spent flowers. I'm a big fan.

#4 -- Blue Bells (Browallia speciosa)

 

Blue bells. Photo: georgeweigel.net

Growing 12 to 18 inches tall, blue bells aren't new. Back in Victorian times, they were my mother's favorite companion for her impatiens, as the latter didn't offer blue flowers. Why more people don't use these annuals today keeps Grumpy up at night. (Note to self: must send some blue bells to Jimmy Fallon.) Like impatiens, they bloom nonstop all summer and like shade and moist soil. Blue flowers in shade give me the tingles. Excuse me for a moment.

#5 -- Balloon Flower (Platycodon grandiflorus)

 

Balloon flower. Photo: flowersunnysidegardens.com

OK, now that I've composed myself, let's turn our attention to a fabuloso blue-flowered perennial -- balloon flower. It gets its name from flower buds that inflate like balloons before they pop open to reveal showy, star-shaped blooms. Depending on the selection, this sun-loving plant can stand 6 to 24 inches tall. It starts blooming in early summer and continues for two months or more if you remove spent blossoms. A couple of notes -- balloon flower is one of the last perennials to sprout in spring, so don't dig it up thinking it's dead. You'll rightly loathe yourself. Also, it develops a taproot, making it hard to transplant once it's established. Plant it somewhere you can leave it totally undisturbed -- like North Korea's Tourism Office.

#6 -- Large-Flowered Clematis (Clematis sp.)

 

Blue clematis at Linda Hostetler's garden, The Plains, VA. Photo: Steve Bender

Haven't been getting your mail lately? Maybe it's because your mailbox is hidden under a glorious mass of blooming clematis vines like millions of other mailboxes across America. Your letter carrier is peeved, but Grumpy approves, especially if you've forsaken a red, pink, or white clematis for a special one that's BLUE. You have lots of choices -- sky blue 'Ramona,' deep lavender-blue 'General Sikorski, ' periwinkle blue 'H.F. Young,' deep blue 'Lady Betty Balfour,' purplish-blue 'The President,'  violet-blue 'Jackmanii' (above), and lavender-blue 'Will Goodwin.' Plant in moist, well-drained soil that's well-mulched to keep the roots cool, while the top remains in sun -- thus completely hiding your name from the U.S. Postal Service. Your reward? No more daily brochures from Viking River Cruises! Now you're getting the tingles.

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