Anchusa is usually grown as a perennial in the herbaceous border, but there is a dwarf annual species which is excellent for bedding or window boxes. The bushy plant bears branching stems which are covered with starry blue flowers in midsummer. The secrets of success are to deadhead regularly, keep well watered and spray against mildew if white spots appear.

Anchusa (Anchusa capensis)

This genus is known for its intense blue flowers. Most species are perennials, but some are annuals, which is useful, as there are relatively few bedding plants with this kind of blue flower. Among the annuals is A. capensis, which is a biennial in its native South Africa. However, in cultivation, it is treated as an annual.

English: Anchusa azurea, Boraginaceae, Italian...

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The saucer-shaped flowers are a very rich, bright blue colour, which fades to white as it reaches the throat. Individually, they are not very big, but the overall effect is quite stunning. Seed merchants have produced strains of mixed pastel colours, including whites, pinks and mauves, as well as blues. One such variety is ‘Dawn Mixed’.

Unfortunately, the plants themselves have little to commend them. The leaves are narrow, pointed and slightly bristly, but not distinguished. Most grow to about 45cm (I8in), but there are shorter, more compact forms, such as ‘Blue Angel’, which grow to only half that height.

These can be used as bedding plants, utilizing their colour to contrast with the bright colours of other annuals. A popular use is to place them in red, white and blue schemes. A more subtle idea is to plant odd patches in herbaceous or mixed borders, where their colour can be mixed more sympathetically with those of perennial plants.

If the seed has not been sown where it is to flower, put plants into their final position in the Autumn, if treated as biennials, or in the Spring, after frosts have receded. In the latter case, ensure that they have been hardened-off well before they are planted out. Space them about 20cm (8in) apart.

These are not particularly thirsty plants, but do best if they are not allowed to dry out completely.

Anchusa will grow on a wide range of soils, although they are not too happy on heavy clay soils.

VARIETIES: The variety of A. capensis to choose is ‘Blue Angel’ The dark blue, Forget-me-not-like flowers are borne in great profusion. The leaves are narrow and hairy and the plant grows only 9 in. high. Taller varieties are ‘Bedding Blue’  and ‘Blue Bird’ (1.5 ft. indigo blue).

SITE AND SOIL: Any well-drained garden soil will do – thrives best in a sunny, open situation.

PLANT DETAILS: Height 9 in. or f/2 ft.

Spacing: 9 in.

Flowering period: July-August.

PROPAGATION: Sow seeds in September or April where they are to flower. Thin to required spacing.

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