Friday, May 17, 2024

A Winsome Bugloss-Wood Poppy Combo

There's a winsome duo--one yellow, the other blue--that I first saw blooming together in my friend Gail's garden. I don't think my having two degrees from the University of Michigan has anything to do with their blue and gold appeal, though the blue one I first encountered in Ann Arbor. Though one is native and one is not, I think of them both in the same breath. They both thrive in moist soils and some shade, and combine attractive flowers with attractive foliage. Both spread by seed, not rampantly but just enough to create a sense of delight at the sight of a new one having popped up here and there. Both have common names that can get in the way of fully enjoying them. Neither grows in the wilds of Princeton that I have ever seen. 

The first is Siberian bugloss (sounds best when pronounced "BOO-gloss", a perennial that, as its name suggests, is native to Siberia, south to the Caucusus. It has tiny blue flowers and,

as its latin name Brunnera macrophylla suggests, large leaves that remain attractive through the growing season. The name "bugloss" comes from Greek, meaning 'ox's tongue', referring to the leaf's shape and rough texture.

The large leaves and clouds of blue flowers mix well with other garden plants, in this case a largely random congregation of hostas, mayapples, and day lilies.
They also mix well with a native yellow flower called wood poppy. I'd call it by its other common name, celandine poppy, but that creates confusion with the super invasive lesser celandine. 

The diphyllum in its intimidating genus-species name, Stylophorum diphyllum, also refers to the leaves. After the flowers are gone, the foliage forms a nice mound through the summer 

that fits in well with other plants like Christmas fern.

Wood poppy has a nonnative invasive look-alike called greater celandine (Chelidonium majus) that I've only found a couple small patches of in the Princeton area. 

As this comparison shows, wood poppy has larger flowers. 

And wood poppy has hairy seedpods like these, while greater celandine's seedpods are smooth.

Siberian bugloss also has a look-alike, this one with a much more appealing name: forget-me-not, which has tiny leaves and lighter blue flowers. Its genus, Myosotis, also draws from animal anatomy: it's Greek for "mouse's ear."

A few times I've had to break the news to gardeners that the lovely flower they've been growing and admiring in their gardens is not the endearingly named forget-me-not, but instead Siberian bugloss. 

Siberia, bugs, loss, ox's tongue--these are not the associations people wish to conjure when admiring such a pretty plant. The sometimes used "false forget-me-not" doesn't land well either.

Other common names for the plant that are far less common but far more palatable are "great forget-me-not" (they're both in the borage family, after all) and "heartleaf Brunnera."

The plants are easy on the eyes and easy on the garden; but the names can get in the way.

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