Few perennials can match the vivid blue of Anchusa in full bloom, but the straggly, branching flower-stems need staking and the plants are short-lived. For maximum display and longevity, plant in the spring and put a mulch around the stems in May. Dead-head faded blooms and at the end of the flowering season cut the stems down to ground level. A fine plant for the middle or back of the border – the large, rough leaves are described in one of its common names – Ox Tongue. Its one major hate is waterlogged soil.

VARIETIES: The favourite variety of A. azurea (A. italica) is ‘Loddon Royalist’. It flowers between June and August and like all Anchusas should be planted about 1.5 ft apart. The average height is 3 ft – ‘Royal Blue’ reaches the same height. You can go higher or lower. ‘Opal’ (pale blue) reaches 4 ft and both the white-eyed ‘Morning Glory’ and the deep blue ‘Dropmore’ grow 5 ft high. At the other end of the scale ‘Little John’ grows only 1.25 ft tall.

SITE AND SOIL: Any well-drained garden soil will do – thrives best in full sun.

PROPAGATION: Divide clumps in March or take root cuttings in winter.

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