Tuesday, May 8, 2007

The Mountain Bluet Blues

I have a love/hate relationship with my Mountain Bluets. Their robust mounded foliage in early spring looks just wonderful. When in bloom, this perennial cornflower's trumpet-like petals are stunning. And when planted in large groups, they create a sea of purple above a rounded bed of green. What a great colour combo. Quite simply, the Mountain Bluet gives the impression that a seriously successful gardener has been at work. Maybe too succesful.

Every spring, I spend hours pulling Mountain Bluet seedlings that have taken root exactly where I don't want them. Here they are invading a group of grape hyacinths. They spread far and wide and grow in just about any soil as far as I can tell. The "weeding" of the bluets is a small price to pay for their impressive spring display. Still, it's a bit frustrating that they keep turning up all over my border, in the grass, the gravel of the driveway, and between my interlocking bricks.

I make the most of it by sharing my bluets. I put them out in small pots on my front lawn with a "free" sign and a warning that they can be a bit aggressive. At first, I thought nobody would want my extras, but for two years running all my plant freebies have been snapped up within a matter of minutes by passers-by. A great thing for the neighbourhood, I would say. Thanks Mountain Bluet!

But there's one thing about the bluet that gives me the blues. Once they have bloomed these plants are a flop. Literally! They flop over in even the slightest rainfall and they wilt in the hot summer sun. The foliage loses its magic. It tends to become leggy and weed-like. My solution is to cut the Mountain Bluet almost right down to the ground. Sadly, this is the garden-equivalent of the buzz cut. And much like the buzz cut, the first few days aren't pretty. On the bright side, the foliage rejuvenates nicely and the bluet produces a second, albeit less robust, round of blooms.

There's one other thing you should know about Mountain Bluet. Ants love this plant and vice versa. It's my understanding that the ants actually help the Mountain bluet's blooms to open. Whatever the reason, be prepared to swat ants away from your legs and arms when working around the Mountain Bluet.

Despite its "downsides," I'm sticking with the Mountain Bluet. I'll continue to dig up the bonus plants and share them with my neighbours. I totally respect this plant. It's a fleeting beauty that knows tenacity is the key to success and survival.

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