Shades of blue in The Hepworth Wakefield Garden
21 Apr 2021
Spring flowers are vital in providing an early source of pollen and nectar for hungry pollinating insects, which need to recharge their energy levels after the hardships of winter.
When you look closely at the small blue Scilla siberica flowers in The Hepworth Wakefield Garden they have a remarkable characteristic, as the pollen of Scilla is steely blue in colour. Pollen varies in colour across different flower species and can range from bright yellow and rusty red, through to ochre and green, however blue is quite rare. You can tell when certain bees have been foraging for pollen on Scilla siberica as they carry the pollen back to their hive or nest attached to their hind legs and it looks like they are wearing little blue leg warmers.
Blue is a singular colour; it is all around us in the sea and the sky and yet in nature it is a precious thing when you can hold it in your hands. In renaissance Europe they prized blue in the rocks and minerals which could be ground into precious pigments – ultramarine, meaning ‘beyond the sea’, was worth more than gold and made from lapis lazuli, mined in Afghanistan, far beyond the shores of the Mediterranean.
The cobalt blue of certain flowers brings this colour to us in springtime like nothing else. Visitors to the garden this month have said that the flowers of the perennial Pulmonaria ‘Blue Ensign’ look so blue that your eyes can barely take it in. Blue seems to spark that conversation about the bluest blue and our little Scilla flowers certainly look bluer in combination with the pale clusters of aquamarine Puschkinia and the deep ruby of the hellebores.
– Katy Merrington, Cultural Gardener