Summertime blues- Narbonne blue flax
Narbonne blue flax is a wonderful and sturdy garden perennial and one of my favorites. This plant forms a prolific blooming perennial well suited for the long days of Colorado summers. Mostly a vase shaped perennial it can also form a dome of growth if grown in protected locations. I have grown this plant in my personal gardens for many years and keep getting more to fill in spots where other plants struggle. At Denver Botanic Gardens we grow Narbonne blue flax in several of our key gardens including the O’Fallon Perennial Walk, and the Rock Alpine Garden. Where ever it gets planted it is always a conversation piece. The most common response I hear is “Wow I didn’t know that our native flax could be so robust and beautiful” to which I must respond “Sadly it isn’t, what you are looking at is a European native, the most beautiful of all the blue flax, Linum narbonense”.
Narbonne blue flax is a powerful pollinator attractor bringing bees by day and moths by night. I have seen this plant gleefully adorned by a buzzing mass of bees to the point where I thought the whole mass was going to buzz off and float away. In the evenings you can see hawk moths flitting in and going to work on the nectar left behind from the bees. The electric blue of this flower makes many great combinations as well. One of my favorite combination plants is bush morning glory (Ipomoea leptophylla), the two work very well together. Even when Narbonne blue flax is not in bloom the plant is substantial enough to add texture and substance in the garden, even through the winter. No matter how you combine it or where you plant it you will quickly realize that you need more. Good thing the Plant Select® growers are out there, I know they’ll have more waiting.
Narbonne blue flax (Linum narbonense)
Height: 16 – 20”
Width: 16 – 20”
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Moderate to xeric (needs no additional irrigation once established)
Hardiness: USDA Hardiness Zone 5-8
Culture: Sandy to loam soils, will tolerate some clay
Thanks to Mike Bone, Denver Botanic Gardens for writing this piece.