'Midnight Blue'

"Show me your garden & I shall tell you what you are."

-Alfred Austin


Trachelium caeruleum native of southwest Europe is a tender perennial which might be much more popular if it had a more easily remembered name than Trachelium or a lovelier common name than Throatwort. It is only very occasionally called Umbrella Flower which is the closest it has to a pretty name, so perhaps that least used option should be more widely adopted.

Trachelium is typically grown as an annual. However, in a very sunny spot that is not too droughty, winters on Puget Sound are just mild enough that this species will sometimes perennialize. It does not like extremes of temperature & when grown in the south would need a bit of shade for protection from harsh light at high summer, but here in Zone 8 it needs fullest sun & regular watering in well-draining soil.

'Midnight Blue' is a rich violet-blue. It forms a clump over time two or three feet high & wide, in full flower by mid-July. Deadheading extends flowers through the whole of summer. The lacecaps or umbels of tiny flowers are a luminescent & excellent for bouquets. They are extremely attractive to butterflies & pollinators, & have a very mild scent that reminds me of balloon rubber.

The foliage is ovate, dentate, slightly empurpled to entirely maroon, & reminiscent of the leaves of small purple clematises. It attempts to be evergreen through winter but whatever is left at winter's end should be trimmed away to make room for new spring growth.

It is obvious by its common name that Throatwort was once regarded as an important medicinal plant as a gargle for soar throat. It in reality has no medicinal value, & the belief to the contrary was due to its throat-shaped corolla which in the supernatural imaginings of the Doctrine of Signatures meant God had given the flowers this shape as a message to humanity to use it to cure throat ailments.

As with chrysanthemums, people with sensitive skin may have an allergenic dermatological response to physical contact with this flower.


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