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Cornucopia - A Useful Thug

A Useful Thug
John Jervois

It used to be called Lithospermum purpureocaeruleum then Lithodora, which made good sense since its blue flowers are a similar intense ultramarine to those of L. diffusa, commonly known as 'Heavenly Blue'. But the botanists, in their wisdom, have renamed it Buglossoides purpurocaerulea which is a real misnomer since it doesn’t resemble the buglosses either in foliage or in flower.

According to Keble Martin, it’s an uncommon British native found in south-east England and South Wales. A quick growing perennial with semi-evergreen dark green foliage now, in late May, it’s just coming into flower. It is highly stoloniferous and, unless kept under strict control, is not suitable for the herbaceous border. Like most blue flowers, it will grow happily in shade and dry shade too. Here we have a drift growing under a large holm oak and you can’t get a drier and shadier situation. In another part of the garden there is a small conical mountain composed mostly of boulder clay and flint formed probably when the old cesspit was dug out many years ago. It’s dust dry and rock hard in summer but a dozen or so clumps of Buglossoides purpurocaerulea, planted by me some years ago, have completely covered it and the result is rather effective.

It’s best propagated by detaching the stolons when they have just begun to root since the latter grow quickly and, as an adult, it resents disturbance.

When in flower it always causes comment but doesn’t often seem to appear in cultivation perhaps due to its potentially invasive habit. However, a going over with the shears in autumn will keep it under control.

First published in the Essex Group Newsletter September 2012
and subsequently in Cornucopia Issue 32.
© Copyright for this article: John Jervois

This article was taken from a copy of Cornucopia that was published in 2013. You could be reading these articles as they are published to a national audience, by subscribing to Cornucopia.

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