Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Mertensia - Bluebell

A genus of spring flowering perennials that any temperate climate woodland garden can't be without! Generally easy to grow, insect and disease problems are rare, other than mildew or rust which may sometimes occur.

Mertensia asiatica ( Asian Bluebell )
A perennial, reaching up to 3.3 x 2 feet, that is native to Sakhalin, Korea and Japan.
The oval leaves, up to 8 x 5 inches, are pale blue-green. The foliage mound does not go dormant during summer, unlike the native Virginia Bluebell.
The abundant, bell-shaped flowers, up to 0.5 inches long, during spring, open pink and turn to blue.
Hardy zones 3 to 8 in partial to full shade.

Mertensia ciliata
A clumping perennial, reaching up to 4 feet x 20 inches, that is native to the western U.S. ( from Oregon to Montana to South Dakota; south to central California to New Mexico ).
The oval leaves, up to 6 inches in length, are bluish.
The tubular, sky blue flowers, up to 0.5 inches in length, are borne during mid spring.
Hardy zones 4 to 8 in partial shade on humus-rich, well drained soil.

* USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

* historical archive photos


Mertensia echinoides
A lax growing, groundcover perennial, reaching up to 15 x 20 inches, that is native to the Himalayas. The deep blue, tubular flowers are borne during spring, often repeating during autumn.
Hardy zones 4 to 8 in partial shade.

Mertensia paniculata ( Northern Bluebells )
A sprawling perennial, reaching a maximum size of 5 x 2 ( rarely over 2 ) feet, that is native to northern North America ( from Kotzebue, Alaska to far northern Yukon to Great Slave Lake, Northwest Territories to northern Saskatchewan to York Factory, Manitoba to far northern Ontario to Quebec; south to Oregon to Montana to northeast Iowa to northern Wisconsin to the Michigan Upper Peninsula ). It is endangered in Iowa. It is found in woodland edges and mountain meadows in the wild.
The smooth-edged, lance-shaped to ovate leaves are up to 5 x 1.5 inches in size. The foliage is gray-green to deep green.
The pale blue flowers, up to 0.6 inches long, are borne in drooping sprays.
Hardy zones 1 to 6 in partial shade on moist, fertile, well drained soil. It does not enjoy hot summers.

* USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database


Mertensia sibirica ( Siberian Bluebell )
A perennial, reaching up to 28 inches x 2 feet, that is native to Sibiria and northern China.
The smooth, elliptical leaves, up to 8 x 5 inches, are blue-green. The foliage mound does not go dormant during summer, unlike the native Virginia Bluebell.
The abundant, purplish-blue, bell-shaped flowers, up to 1 inch in length, are borne during spring.
Hardy zones 3 to 7 in partial shade.

Mertensia virginiana ( Virginia Bluebells )
A fast growing, perennial, reaching up to 3 x 2 feet, that is native to rich woods and bottomland forest in eastern North America ( from central Minnesota to Thunder Bay, Ontario to Michigan's Upper Peninsula to the north shore of Lake Erie to New York State; south to eastern Kansas to far northern Georgia to central North Carolina ). It is endangered in Michigan, Ontario, New Jersey, Delaware, North Carolina, Georgia and Mississippi. It is extinct in the wild in Kansas. It was uncommon but not quite rare on the Ohio shore during the 1800s.
The deeply-veined, elliptical leaves, up to 8 x 5 inches, are blue-gray to blue-green. The foliage dies back and the plants go dormant during mid summer to emerge again the following spring. Virginia Bluebells is great for interplanting with summer perennials.
The abundant, drooping, bell-shaped flowers, up to 1 inch in length, open pink and turn to blue. They are borne during mid to late spring. The flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds.
Hardy zones 2 to 8 in partial to full shade on cool, moist, fertile, light, humus-rich, well drained soil ( however, it becomes drought tolerant during summer once it goes dormant ). A deep organic mulch is recommended to keep soil cool during summer and prevent freeze/thaw during winter. It look great planted with variegated Hostas and Wood Ferns but may be prone to grazing by deer where they are prevalent. Clumps can be divided during early spring as they first emerge, if more plants are desired. Seed should be sown immediately upon ripening.

* photo taken on April 11 2010 @ U.S. National Arboretum

* photo of unknown internet source

* photos taken on Apr 16 2013 in Columbia, MD

* photos taken on Apr 21 2015 in Columbia, MD

* photos taken on May 3 2015 in Columbia, MD

* photos taken on May 6 2015 @ Cypressmeade Park, Ellicott City, MD

* photos taken on Apr 17 2016 @ U.S. National Arboretum, DC

* photos taken on Apr 11 2017 in Columbia, MD

* photos taken on Apr 14 2017 @ Patuxent Research Refuge, Laurel, MD


'Alba'
Pure white flowers; otherwise identical.

'Rubra'
Pinkish flowers.

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