Some Happy Blues
This has been a good year for Ohio spiderwort (Tradescantia ohioensis) in my garden. I can’t remember it blooming so profusely before.
Ohio spiderwort is not nearly as common in gardens as Virginia spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana). There are lots of cultivars of Virginia spiderwort, but none that I know of for Ohio spiderwort. I’m guessing there are two reasons: Virginia spiderwort is more compact and can be bred for a more diverse range of colors.
But Ohio spiderwort has many virtues. First is the deep blue color, set off by striking gold anthers. If a flower is a good blue, why would you go messing around trying to come up with other colors?
It’s got a fairly long bloom period in late spring and early summer, and it’s a good plant for bees and butterflies. What’s more, it makes clumps and doesn’t run like Virginia spiderwort. It’s fairly adaptable, taking sun or part shade and preferring moist but tolerating dry soils.
Ohio spiderwort isn’t perfect, of course. Some people think the tall, grassy stems (from 2-4′) can be rather awkward. Actually, I am really pleased this year that most of my spiderwort is standing up without staking. Instead it is leaning a bit on surrounding plants, especially the swamp milkweed (Asclepisa incarnata) and the Monarda didyma ‘Claire Grace’. This is the kind of thing that is supposed to happen in gardens but almost never does in mine.
Plus, the flowers are only open from morning to early afternoon. It dies back in summer, but if you cut it to the ground you will get new growth and possibly more blooms in fall. I’m not going to do this with most of my spiderwort, though, as it is surrounded by plants that will get quite tall and bloom by mid-summer, obscuring the Tradescantia.
Then there’s that name: spiderwort, which sounds like it has something to do with warts on spiders. But, as I have mentioned before, wort is just a Middle English word for plant. Apparently another common name is widow’s tears, but I don’t think that really helps from a branding point of view.
Ohio spiderwort is a good fit for an informal sort of garden, and one where space isn’t at too much of a premium.
Another blue flower making me happy right now is Clematis ‘Ice Blue’, which is growing on the back arbor where I used to have my ‘Westerland’ rose. These blooms are an unexpected bonus, as I only planted ‘Ice Blue’ last fall. I thought I wouldn’t see any flowers until next year. ‘Ice Blue’ only grew about 3′ this year, and has had exactly three flower buds.
Do you grow any spiderworts in your garden?