Small Wonders

Small Wonders

May 15 2021

Blue is a relatively recent invention. In ‘The Odyssey’, Homer writes of the ‘wine dark’ sea, he didn’t use the word blue, it didn’t exist in his world. Neither did it exist in Icelandic sagas, the Koran, ancient Chinese stories, Hindu Vedic hymns, or in an ancient Hebrew bible. All over the world, blue is the last color word to appear, in every language. Ancient Egyptians were the first to use a word for blue-and the first to produce a blue dye. There is a tribe in Namibia that doesn’t have a word for blue and have difficulty distinguishing blue from green. They have many words for green and can tell these shades more readily than we can. It would appear that we need a word for something in order to see it.

It’s hard to imagine a world without blue in it-the sky, the lakes, blue eyes and blue flowers. Arguably, some blue flowers have a tinge of lavender or pink as opposed to ‘true blue’, but I’m not really bothered by that, I just like blue flowers and close counts. It’s such a serene color, but I think placing other bright colors like yellow around the blue ones makes them stand out more. Contrast adds interest I think, perhaps blue does look similar to green. Maybe color is subjective!

One of my favorite blue flowers is Veronica, which comes in an upright spiky form and a low growing spreading mat. They both also come in other colors (pink and white). It’s interesting that these two different looking plants are actually the same genus-clearly I’m going to have to go out in the gardens, get down on my knees and have a closer look at the individual flowers. I’d assume they’d resemble each other. Each teeny, tiny little flower with all the requisite minute parts. We should all walk around in a continuous state of wonder. A common name for veronica is speedwell for it’s herbal use for asthma, allergies and congestion-a quick return to health! Veronicas have round stems unlike salvias and other mint family plants which have square stems (the flowers look somewhat similar at first glance).

Turkish Veronica is the short mat forming type, covered with blue flowers in late spring. If you were designing a small garden that was a replica of a larger landscape (this could happen) you could use a cultivar appropriately named ‘Crystal River’ to suggest a river flowing through rocks. True, it would be green most of the summer, but sometimes I think the fact that flowers are ephemeral makes us value them even more. Each flower has it’s time, and how eagerly we await their appearance, think of tulips and lilacs. Another thought is to add a ‘stream’ of crushed and tumbled glass flowing in and out of the veronica river. There are delightful tiny conifers to complete your look. Hold that thought-I’m off to the greenhouse. I fully expect some blue flowers to follow me home.

Veronica spicata, Spiked Speedwell

Veronica liwanensis, Turkish Veronica

Veronica ‘Crystal Rivers’ cross of Veronica liwanensis and Veronica pectinata

(Pink flower in picture is thyme)