Baby Blue Eyes NEMOPHILA

Nemophila is a low-growing carpeting plant which will flourish at the edge of the border or in the rockery if the conditions are moist and cool. The leaves are feathery and the flowers are shaped like large buttercups. Dryness around its roots is the enemy – dig in organic matter before sowing and water copiously in dry weather. A pretty garden plant but a poor cut flower – the blooms soon fade in water.

A wet Summer can spell disaster for bedding plants; they all begin to look rather sad as their flowers become mushy and their colours muted. However, there is one annual that does very well in these conditions: Baby Blue Eyes. The name derives from the flowers’ blue colouration. In one species, namely Nemophila menziesii, the flower is a pale blue, fading to white in the centre. In the most popular species, N. maculata, the dish-like flowers are white with a purple blotch on the tip of each petal, linked to the centre by thin, purple veins.

English: Photograph of Baby Blue Eyes (Nemophi...

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The plants are slightly lax, with an open, somewhat sprawling, habit. The pale green, deeply-cut leaves are quite attractive and are slightly sticky to the touch. So many flowers are produced that the plant itself is not always noticed.

Another name for these plants is Californian Bluebell, but unlike most plants from that area, Nemophilo don’t like a hot, sunny position. In fact, they prefer the reverse; a lightly-shaded, cool one, and always look their best during cool, wet summers. Plant where they are shaded during the hottest part of the day. A border under a North-facing wall, or where other plants provide partial shading, is ideal.

Baby Blue Eyes are good plants for a rock garden or along the edge of a path. They will mix with other types of bedding or with herbaceous plants, particularly at the front of a border.

Sow these plants where they are to flower and thin resulting seedlings to about 15cm (6in) apart.

Nemophila prefer a partially-shaded habitat where they will avoid the hottest part of the day.

These plants don’t to dry out and should be kept watered whenever there is insufficient rainfall.

They will grow in any soil that is moisture-retentive, with the exception of heavy clays, which they dislike.

These hardy annuals and seedlings will withstand most Winters. However, they don’t like hot, dry weather and do best in areas where rainfall is high.

English: Photograph of Baby Blue Eyes (Nemophi...

Image via Wikipedia

Nemophila are grown from seed, scattered where the plants are to flower. They can be sown in September or March, the former producing stronger, earlier-flowering plants.

Because of their lax habit, Nemophilo are ideal for use in hanging baskets, window boxes and other containers, especially those that are placed in sunless positions.

Nemophila are prone to Aphid attack. Stem a serious outbreak by spraying with the appropriate insecticide.

VARIETIES: N. menziesii is sometimes listed as N. insignis or under its common name of Baby Blue Eyes or Californian Bluebell. The flowers are 1-1.5 in. across and the sky blue petals have a prominent white centre. If you search the catalogues you will find one of the more unusual varieties listed – all-white or white with a blue centre.

SITE AND SOIL: Any reasonable garden soil will do, but moisture-retaining land is preferred. Thrives in sun or light shade.

PLANT DETAILS: Height 6 in.

Spacing: 6 in.

Flowering period: June-September.

PROPAGATION: Dislikes root disturbance. Sow seeds in Septem-ber or April where they are to flower. Thin to required spacing.

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