·■ Beautiful blue: Anagallis in close-up (above) and (below) the complete plant that’s sharing a container with a red zonal pelargonium.
TRUE BLUE flowers have always been conspicuous by their scarcity in the garden for as long as I can remember.
By true blue I mean just that, with no hint of purple, plum or lilac from the pretenders. Yes, the Himalayan poppy – Meconopsis and its varieties – and some delphiniums are as perfect a blue as you can get, while cornflowers and forget-me-nots run them close, as do love-in-a mist and lobelia.
Yet there is something about Anagallis – the bewitching blue pimpernel – that sends it to the top of my Blue League table, even nudging ahead of the glorious meconopsis.
Now anagallis is not too well known and, I have to confess, I always reckoned it to be an annual.
In fact, it is a half-hardy perennial and will dazzle a hanging basket or container as few others are capable of doing.
What bowls me over most is the sheer intensity of its deep Mediterranean blue, half-inch wide petals.
A few hybrids, like the one called Skylover I’ve recently bought, bear deep pink or wine red centres and golden anthers all summer.
The combination is stunning.
Anagallis monellii will spread or trail without too much persuasion and won’t exceed 8in-10in high.
In one of my books, I read that anagallis were once thought to dispel sadness, perhaps because its name means to laugh in Greek.
Well, I can’t argue with that. Already my plant is expanding rapidly in a tub alongside our front door. And that prompts a smile or two from me.
Those five-petalled blooms politely close in the evening, even though the sun may still be shining. By mid-morning next day they are fully awake, adding to their numbers daily.
Among its 20 species is a colour variant, including Anagallis tenella Studland in a deep pink and a sweet scent to boot.
Blue or pink, anagallis relish a home in full sun and soil that’s on the sandy side. Plant in a rock garden, edge of border or off the ground in container or basket.
As perennials, it should be possible to take cuttings later in the summer. I’ve not tried this, but I shall be trusting my green fingers won’t let me down around mid-August.
Meanwhile, go search out garden centre or store for these gems from the Med. They are sure to bring you a sunny smile!