Imagine: A low-growing plant for shady places that gently spreads in open areas without becoming a nuisance. And the flowers are a pure sky blue.
After a long winter when much of your yard has been brown and barren, spring has finally arrived. Every day brings new growth and color into your landscape. Bright yellow daffodil flowers reach toward the sun. Pink bleeding heart flowers dangle from curved stems like charms on a necklace. Purple Lunaria flowers are scattered through the emerging perennials, and the butter yellow hakon grass moves in the wind. And throughout this tapestry of fresh growth and color runs a river of sky blue flowers that have obligingly filled in the normally barren areas in the early season garden. The Virginia bluebells are back!
Name: Mertensia virginica aka Virginia bluebells
Type of Plant: This native perennial is frequently referred to as a “spring ephemeral” because the plant is only in the garden for that short season. Although Virginia bluebells self seed and reliably return every spring, they go dormant shortly after flowering. Hardy in Zone 3-8, this plant does best in part to full shade. This is a good bee and butterfly plant for the early spring.
Why I love this: It’s hard to find perennials that are sky blue. Lavender blue or purple are easy colors to find, but that pure, sky blue is rare. It’s also the perfect compliment to the yellows and pinks of other spring-flowering plants. Mertensia virginica self-seeds, and it mingles well with other perennials, growing in between the other plants and then disappearing as the other garden inhabitants grow larger.
A Word to the Wise: Because Mertensia virginica goes dormant shortly after it flowers and sets seed, it’s hard to find in garden centers beyond late May. Be sure to buy and plant it early in the season.