March 29th, 2010
Blue Flowers

blue flowers
Blue flowers blooming at Zanthan Gardens on March 28, 2010

  • Muscari racemosum. Blue bottles. (aka, grape hyacinths. The “grape” refers to the way the flowers are clustered like a bunch of grapes, not the color.)
  • Nemophila insignis. Baby blue eyes.
  • Hyacinthoides hispanica. Spanish bluebells
  • Lupinus texensis. Texas bluebonnet.
  • Commelinantia anomala. False dayflowers. (solid blue and a bicolor)

Recently I tweeted about Suntory having GMO’d a “blue” rose. In response, @CarolineSays linked to a blog post by Chris Clarke Daze of Whine and Roses, which scoffed at the very idea that Suntory’s rose was blue. Lilac or mauve, maybe, but not blue.

In flower terms, “blue” is a pretty expansive color term–just like black, which typically is a really, really, deep red. So I decided to inventory my own blue flowers. Of course, the camera lies. Depending upon the settings in your camera, the setting on your monitor, or any number of other variables (photos shot in full sunlight, bright shade, full shade), colors are going to differ.

Massed, bluebonnets are a deep indigo or jewel-toned blue. (At least mine are. Some are a more pale sky blue.) Spanish bluebells look anemic beside them. Baby blue eyes are a hazy day sky blue. But in the photo they look almost lavender…or like my favorite crayon as a child “periwinkle blue”. In life, false dayflowers are an electric, aniline blue. In my photo, they have a reddish tint compared with the bluebonnets.

I wanted to see if some of the “lavender” blues looked more like blue when compared to flowers that I think of as purple in the garden: Texas mountain laurel, tradescantia, and verbena. And they do. The color of the Suntory rose seems similar to the periwinkle blue of the rosemary and baby blue eyes.

blue flowers
Purple and blue flowers blooming at Zanthan Gardens on March 29, 2010

So I’m not going to get on Suntory because their new flower isn’t really “blue”. Rather, I’m still disappointed that they think developing a blue rose is worth messing around with genetically modified organisms.

by M Sinclair Stevens

7 Responses to post “Blue Flowers”

  1. From Diana - Austin:

    MSS — That’s a lovely collection of true blue flowers. They are so amazing in the garden, and I do wish I could photograph them better — gotta research my camera settings to get them right.

    I do love blue flowers. Right now the whole yard is blue and white–like a Chinese plate. –mss

  2. From MrBrownThumb:

    Blue? Let me know when they make truly black flowers. I might not even care that they’re genetically modified organisms. Well, maybe I would but not as much as I would be if they were plants I wanted to eat.

    I’m attracted to black flowers, too. I’ve had some “black” irises but they are always just a dark, dark maroon. –mss

  3. From Annie in Austin:

    Even though it meant cutting them, I like how you photographed all the blues together for comparison, MSS. I’ve tried to grow Nemophila, tradescantia, and verbena but we now have only 3 in common: bluebonnet, grape hyacinth, TX Mountain laurel.

    It would be interesting in summer to see the Blue Clerodendron/Rotheca ugandense, a Black & Blue Salvia & a Blue Butterfly Pea against a white background in the same light – they seem pretty blue in my mind’s eye. The Siberian iris seems blue, too – but it blooms when the others do not.

    Defining “Purple” flowers is also slippery- what I want is Blue-violet, but so many flowers called purple are reddish magenta.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

    The only flower that was difficult to cut for the photo was the Spanish bluebell. I’m drowning in the rest of them. My yard really does look more like a meadow this year than a proper garden. It’s completely out of control. I like the violet blues, not the reddish purples, too. I did have a “blue flag” iris blooming the other day but the batteries had run out on my camera and by the time I got new ones so I could do this post, it had faded. Compared to the bluebonnets it’s much more violet/purple. I think the truest blue flower is supposed to be Meconopsis grandis, the blue poppy. No chance of growing that here. Bluebonnets are very satisfying, though. –mss

  4. From entangled: Virginia:

    We have at least 2 blues in common. Grape hyacinths are just starting to bloom now and the Spanish bluebells will be along in a few weeks.

    I just looked at the Suntory press release about the blue rose, but it doesn’t look all that blue to me. Really not too different from some of the other “blue” roses that have been around for years. And the press release says it took 2 decades to develop and get regulatory approval. You’d think that in that amount of time they could have done it the old fashioned way.

    They’re also doing blue carnations. Ick.

    No one can breed a blue rose the “old-fashioned” way because roses do not contain the genetic material that creates the color blue. — mss

  5. From Caroline - Austin:

    Great post! Yes, cameras can lie about color, unless the white balance is set just so. Similarly, computer monitors can lie about color as well. What looks blue on your monitor may look purple on mine. When I photograph flowers in my garden, the blues and purples are the hardest to “get right”–I am constantly adjusting the white balance setting on my camera to get the camera to see what I see.

    In your photographs, the only flowers that appear to be true blue on my monitor are the bluebonnets and the dayflowers; the rest appear to be various shades of purple. Interestingly, the flowers in the bottom photograph appear more purple than in the top photo, with the flower on the far left appearing more of a hot-pink fuschia than any shade of blue.

    In any event, if a corporation is going to spend 20 years of time, manpower, money, energy and other resources genetically modifying a so-called blue rose, the end result better be (to paraphrase Mr. Clarke) flipping blue. As your photographs show, Mother Nature can do so much better.

    The bluebonnets look the truest blue in these photos but in the garden the false dayflowers are a clearer blue. The second set of photos starts from left to right with the fuchsia, purple, and lavender flowers to contrast them with the periwinkle blues of the rosemary and baby blue eyes. — mss

  6. From Jenny, Round Rock, TX:

    Each lovely in it’s own shade of blue. Your yard must be gorgeous. Baby Blue Eyes was one of the first to bloom for me this spring, and is still putting on a good show, now being joined by Mountain Laurel, Hyacinth, and Bluebonnets. Yay for Spring!

    I’ve not been a very good gardener this year. Because I haven’t had to water, I’ve just let things grow where they will. Currently thuggish cilantro is dominating and looked very weedy until the flowers came out last week. The problem with all this effusive growth is that it just falls over when the critters run around in it. — mss

  7. From Linda Lehmusvirta Austin:

    Lovely pictures! How did you do it? Did you put them on the new stones?

    No. I used the white table near the pond. The second photo, I took too late the next day so there were a lot of leafy shadows. — mss