Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today

 
 

NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.

 
 
 
 

NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.

 
 
 
 

New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.

 
 
 
 

Plant Profiles

Eyelash Sage

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Eyelash sage in late Summer:  Blue flowers with a playful attitude.  I have blue asters, too; this is a very daisy-friendly garden.  But a daisy is simplicity by definition: A circle of color.  The flowers of eyelash sage are as eccentric as orchids—albeit tiny ones no larger than your thumbnail.

 

But what an interesting inch they are!  The tongue-like lower petal is a shout-out to the boom-mike of stamens and pistil that dangle in front.   

 

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The blue BB's of the buds are a show in themselves, especially when backed by a bright color.  A pillar of terra-cotta flue tiles does the job above.  From a different angle, below, the chrome-yellow foliage of a fancy paper mulberry cultivar is even more fun.

 

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With sun, great drainage in Winter, and some mulch each Fall, your garden's eyelashes can be blue, too.

 

 

Here's how to grow this elegant and eccentric perennial:

 

Latin Name

Caryopteris divaricata 'Blue Butterflies'

Common Name

Eyelash Sage / Perennial Bluebeard

Family

Lamiaceae, the Mint family.

What kind of plant is it?

Deciduous perennial.

Hardiness

Zones 6b to 9, perhaps even colder. 

Habit

Tall vertical stems from a woody base, with flowers at the tips of the stems. 

Rate of Growth

Medium.

Size in ten years

A clump two to three feet across and six feet tall.

Texture

The mint-like foliage is ordinary in the extreme, true.  There are enough stems in a maturing clump to create a fairly dense vertical column of growth.  The amusing and airy panicles of small blue flowers are a delicate contrast.

Grown for

its flowers: Narrow tubes are vertical, but the four blue petals (the lowest is

blue-dotted over a white base, with a darker-blue tongue) all tilt forward with a face-like personality more often seen in pansies.  The three stamens and solo pistil continue straight upward above the petals, though, but soon curve over to dangle seductively in front of the face, like carrots in front of a horse, a boom mike in front of the full throat of the flower's face—or, indeed, like eyelashes to die for.  The flowers of 'Blue Butterflies' are, supposedly, darker blue than those of the straight species.  If I ever grow them side-by-side, I'll know for sure.

 

its late as well as long season of flowering: August into October

 

its rarity: While no garden should be without a couple of varieties of the shrubby C. x clandonensis, for its blue fluffy late-season flowers, easy-to-handle low and mounding habit and, often, riveting colorful foliage, C. divaricata's larger flowers are on an entirely more eccentric level of appeal.  Its tall habit and lesser hardiness make more thoughtful siting essential, too.

 

its unpalatibility to deer:  Although the foliage doesn't have any odor when undisturbed, if crushed or even bruised, it's stinky indeed.  There's no question that Eyelash Sage is in the mint family!  Deer leave this perennial alone.

Flowering season

Late Summer:  August into October.

Culture

Full sun to part shade; more sun is better at the northern end of its range.  Good soil speeds growth, but only as long as excellent drainage in Winter is maintained. 

How to handle it

Like lion's ears, 'Blue Butterflies' is one of the tallest mints you'll ever grow.  It's not effective as a specimen, though, and its vertical stems and reasonably thickly-growing but quite boring all-green leaves make it an unlikely choice for the front of a bed.  But the flowers are only interesting when you can see them eyeball-to-eyelash, and then they're very interesting, indeed. 

 

So despite its height and boring foliage, find a spot for 'Blue Butterflies' that's only a foot or two back from the grass or the walkway.  (A fantasy site: all along a narrow bed between a pathway and a South or West-facing brick wall.)  You could partner at its feet with lower plants that also require good drainage and sun, especially if they do something in Spring and mid-Summer when 'Blue Butterflies' is nothing but stems and leaves.  Geranium macrorrhizum, say, or, if you're lucky enough to be gardening in Zone 7 and up, the shrubby variegated euphorbs, such as E. 'Tasmanian Tiger'.   

 

In Zone 7 and below, only plant where surface water can drain immediately away.  Also, don't cut the frost-killed stems down until Spring, mulch heavily for the first Winter or two, and be patient in Spring: 'Blue Butterlies' is very slow to resprout and looks deader than dead until it does.

 

If you're luckier than I am, 'Blue Butterflies' might self-seed for you.  Self-seeded individuals are often more vigorous than those you plant, so you may find that 'Blue Butterflies' is more intrepid when it can choose its own locations.

Downsides

It's a long Summer of blah foliage before the totally charming flowers start appearing.  But the wait is worth it.   

Variants

Caryopteris divaricata itself is hardy to Zone 5.  Its white-variegated cultivar, 'Snow Fairy', is just as hardy and is justifiably popular: It's even hardier than 'Blue Butterflies', with an easier-to-use broad-as-tall habit, and couldn't have brighter foliage.  On the other hand, its blue flowers are so small as to be nearly invisible.  'Pink Butterflies' is, indeed, pink-flowered. 

 

The shrubby bluebeard, Caryopteris x clandonensis, has the same talents as many Buddleia davidii cultivars, just at a third the height: late-season blue flowers and, often, exciting variegated or gold foliage. 

 

All Caryopteris require excellent Winter drainage; in addition, C. x. clandonensis is only happy in full sun.  All Caryopteris benefit from being cut down just as they start into growth in the Spring even if your climate is mild enough that stems have overwintered intact. 

 

Availability

On-line.

Propagation

Division in Spring.  C. divaricata itself is supposed to self-seed with enthusiasm and, indeed, I've seen it  popping up just like Verbena bonariensis in the Zone 5 gardens of www.Stonecrop.org.  I can't prove it in my own gardens, though.  Perhaps 'Blue Butterflies' is sterile or, even more likely, seeds and seedlings don't survive my Winter-wet soil.  'Blue Butterflies' probaby doesn't come true from seed, so it's just as well.

Native habitat

Caryopteris divaricata as well as C. divaricata 'Blue Butterflies' are both native to Japan.

 
 
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