Gatsby-Inspired Blue Gardens

There is something magical about a blue garden, especially at dusk. It is then, during the fading light, when the elegant blue flowers and green foliage blend softly together, and the scene becomes a rhapsody in blue.

Sadly, blue gardens haven't been popular in the horticultural world for a while. They had a brief but spectacular moment before the Depression and then faded into (blue) obscurity for decades. That is, until earlier this year, when they made a grand and much-welcomed comeback at the Chelsea Flower Show. There was even a Blue Garden exhibit. Blue gardens suddenly became very hip with horticulture lovers everywhere. Even The Wall Street Journal did a story on them, revealing that "a mystique has evolved around blue flowers over the centuries".

The Harpers & Queen Classical garden, featured as part of the Chelsea Flower Show several years ago.  This was a spectacular formal blue garden with a blue planting scheme that included French lavender, Iris sibirica, purple sage, purple aliums and a pale blue arbour dressed in mauve wisteria. {Image via Harpers & Queen/Photograph by Jonathan Pilkington}

Blue is the most elusive, most coveted color in gardening. Many flowers that seem blue, such as lavender, lilac, and larkspur, are actually shades of purple or mauve. Gertrude Jekyll believed that blue gardens do not have to contain only blue flowers. They just have to have a sprinkling of blue to be beautiful. She recommended adding touches of white to the palette, which adds to the crisp elegance of the blues and greens. If you're unsure about introducing blue plants into your garden, consider add blue elements in other ways, such a blue ceramic pots (use oversized ones, as the Mediterraneans do), a blue potting shed, or blue gates, as the French love to do. You could even hang blue cabana-style curtains, as shown in the top image.

The hero of The Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby, was well aware of the beauty of a blue garden. His lavish Long Island mansion had an extravagant blue garden in which "men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars". Here, in tribute to Baz Luhrmann's production of The Great Gatsby, which is currently being filmed in Australia, is a display of some of my favourite blue gardens.

{Top image and image directly below from Better Homes and Gardens magazine, via brabournefarm blogspot.}

A picture-perfect blue potting shed designed for an alfresco dinner. This delightful space was designed by the leading American interior designer Mary McDonald, who also decorated the surrounding garden in hues of blue. Love those striped drapes with the pink climbing roses. Here are a few more images of this elegant place. {Image via Mary McDonald's website and}

And then there is this exquisite blue garden (below), which I'd be very happy to have, rather than our complicated, half-acre property...

Designer Michael Devine's sweeter-than-sweet blue potting shed and kitchen garden (above). This image has received so much media attention I think it's single-handedly leveraged Michael's career to another level! {Image via Country Life.}

The Blue Garden at Beacon Hill, Rhode Island. Photographed in 1930. 
{Image via the July/August issue of Apollo.}

Australian landscape designer Paul Bangay's former garden at St Ambrose Farm in Woodend. Famous for being a fan of all-green gardens, Paul branched out (apologies for the pun) into blue flowers during the last few years he was here.

The Sculpture in the Garden exhibit, shown as part of the Chelsea Flower Show several years ago. {Image via the book Chelsea Gold | Photographed by Jerry Harpur}

Monet's house and garden at Giverny. Perhaps the ultimate blue garden, Monet's planting scheme popularised mass plantings of blue iris, mauve wisteria and of course the Japanese garden with its beautiful blue-hued lily ponds.

Nothing says summer like a blue deckchair in a country garden.{Image via Country Life}

Plumbago auriculata, which made a big blue splash at Chelsea this year. {Image via Alamy} I love the humble plumbago. It has the most exquisite periwinkle blue colour. I once asked Porter's Paints to match this exact blue so I could paint my living room at my former apartment in South Yarra. It was such a lovely shade; not too pale and not too dark. Thanks to the elegance of the colour, the space looked like a French salon.

Our blue picking garden.  I adore blue hydrangeas, so we have a little picking garden that only has blue hydrangeas in it. In the summer, the whole house is full of bouquets of these beautiful blousy flowers. 

The garden outside the kitchen window, which is planted with mauve hydrangeas.
  (These have just been put in so they're very young. Gardening tip: Stake young hydrangeas so they don't droop on their tender stems. It also keeps them from being soaked when the rain gushes down the slopes.)

Even our gardening library is blue! The flowers in the ginger jar came from RR. He bought this sad wilted bunch home from Safeway the other night and said: "I thought you'd like these." So sweet. They actually look really lovely in this room. I painted the Country Life book cover, and the other framed image beside it is a collage of other Penguin book covers. (You can buy these covers as postcards.)

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