Britta's Letters from (and sometimes about) Berlin

Monday, 15 July 2013

Blue Gardens

Britta Hill

The only delphinium which won out against the slugs this year - and there weren't that many -  is of a pushy sky blue. I would call it neon-blue if it exists as a plant colour. Or glazed-tiles-swimming pool-blue. It is not disturbing, but it looks artificial.
"The world is getting bluer every day" is the headline of one chapter in Karl Foerster's book "The Gardens' Blue Treasures", and he is right: the domineering colour among pink and violet-blue now is blue: the delphiniums, the many sorts of bellflowers: clump-forming Campanula 'Jewel', the vigorous Campanula portenschlagiana or the rampant, spreading Campanula porscharskyana, the balloon flower Platycodon grandiflorus, and the big peach leaved bellflower Campanula persicifolia. Add blue lobelias, the last of the blue irises, blue lupinescornflowersflax and pale blue Veronica gentianoides. At the wall of the house Clematis x jackmanii starts to open the first four leaved flowers, velvety dark blue. As I planned it climbed into the vine and replaces the annual morning glory, although substitute would be the wrong word: it is something so quite different: deep dark night-velvet versus tender moon shimmering light.

Britta Hill

Of course my garden is not an ocean of blue - that I would think too monochrome. (I am also not really in love with 'white gardens' - I liked the one in Sissinghurst very much but would never try to imitate it - even if I could, which I can't).
Delphinium is praised by Karl Foerster most profusely, and he was most famous as a breeder.
And he was a linguistic bard - the German words he invented for his failed experiments of breeding are highly amusing: there are the Straw Fire sorts, the Sun Wrinklers, the Gap Panicles, the Frost-Endangered, the Leaf Invalids, the Ugly Witherers, the Scrooges, the Highwaymen (lying in ambush), the Miller Lads (suffering from powdry blight) and the Candle Flexers. My tile blue delphinium evidently belongs to the highwaymen: it got laid by the rain, and only the lupines on the other side of the path give it a little footing.
I love the enthusiasm and powerful eloquence of Karl Foerster, although when he gets into ecstasy he sometimes overshoots the mark. So he seriously suggests "pure blue animals for the garden".
"The peacock is a surprising garden jewel", he harps. That may be so, but when I was in England, I thought its voice even more surprising, very very loud and not that melodious to my ears. That is not mentioned by Karl...
But he alludes that a peacock sometimes bites into the skirts of the ladies, and thus he advises terminatory: "Who acquires a peacock shall demand a philogynist."
My profound experience tells me: A man who is vain like a peacock seldom is a philogynist - more often this seems to be an oxymoron, a contradiction in itself...


  1. You always see writers trying to come up with an adequate simile for the blue of the sky (cornflower blue, turquoise, etc.) Interesting to compare the blue of a bloom to the blue of the sky. I may think about describing the sky as delphinium blue next time. :)

    1. There you'll have a huge palette, Suze. Just don't take that swimming-pool blue... :-)

  2. Just off to look up philogynist!
    I think it's interesting that in the cold areas of the northern hemisphere morning glory is grown as an annual. In Australia it is a rampant perennial weed that one should never plant in the garden! x

  3. I know that Australia has in some parts a serious weed problem with them (on the 'smaler' scale farmers here had it with the - pretending to look modest - little white sister in the fields, convolvulus arvensis).
    Now, on my balcony, I have Karl Foersters (very fast-growing) perennial sort - and am on the look-out. As my vine :-)

  4. Morning Glory is a scourge here - pretty, but a scourge.
    I like a shot of blue in the garden, but have never felt an attraction for a blue flower bed.

  5. Dear Pondside,
    I can imagine this - Morning Glory is very strong and reckless. I am with you concerning the flowerbeds - monochrome seems mannerism to me. Nevertheless at the moment the world gets bluer every day

  6. Phylogynists and their opposites, misogynists, both like to bite the skirts of ladies. How are we to know which is which? Delightful post!

  7. Thank you! To distinguish: experience helps, the misogynist-radar may help, and the scientific method of trial and error :-) Or: quick-hare-shoes, if you have erred.