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Make a color shift for late summer

Leadwort produces lovely blue flowers in late summer and makes a good companion for yellow flowers such as goldenrod that bloom at the same time
Leadwort produces lovely blue flowers in late summer and makes a good companion for yellow flowers such as goldenrod that bloom at the same time Observer file photo

Blue and yellow flowers look so beautiful together, and the season is just ahead for one of the best combinations of these two lovely colors.

That is because late summer is when leadwort produces the best show of its cobalt blue flowers. And along comes goldenrod to make its lovely companion.

Leadwort makes a low clump of semi-evergreen foliage. Garden goldenrods are medium in height and prolific bearers of bright yellow flowers. Together, they bring out the best in each other’s beautiful color.

This is a color shift from the pinks, purples and reds that tend to dominate summer flowerbeds. And it is a lovely one that is not difficult to achieve with these two perennials, both long-lived.

They require sun and good soil improved with compost that drains well. Beyond that, not much is required beyond trimming off spent blooms of the goldenrod at season’s end.

Named goldenrods sold for garden use are much better plants than the wild ones often seen along roadsides. For one thing, they are shorter, some as low as 12 inches, others 2 feet or taller. The deep yellow or golden yellow flowers form at the top of leafy stems, which may arch gracefully.

The botanical name of leadwort, Ceratostigma plumbaginoides, is hard to say and spell. But the common name leadwort is pretty easy to remember. It is not as descriptive as goldenrod, which is just what that plant looks like.

The flowers of leadwort are its reason for being. They are small, round and the most beautiful cobalt blue. This is a real blue – not violet, not purple, but real blue – almost like a real jewel.

I have loved leadwort for many years and encouraged its planting because of its distinctive color and late-summer show. If you plant it now or in the fall, don’t be nervous if it seems late to break dormancy in spring. That is its nature.

While the major flower show is in late summer, some blooms linger into autumn. That is when you get the bonus of foliage that turns a seasonally correct bronze-to-reddish hue. Set 10 to 12 inches apart, they grow in a compact form, which makes them nice to edge a flowerbed.

Ask Nancy

Q. My Becky daisies have expanded a lot. How soon can I dig and divide them so they can be in more places in my bed?

A. Wait until the bloom season is over. Then you can do this work. It will also be cooler and more inviting outside.

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