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Graham Rice's New Plants Blog

Graham Rice Garden writer and plantsman Northamptonshire and Pennsylvania

Editor-in-Chief of the RHS Encyclopedia of Perennials; writer for a wide range of newspapers and magazines including The Garden and The Plantsman; member of the RHS Herbaceous Plant Committee and Floral Trials Committee; author of many books on plants and gardens.

  • Date Joined: 18 Oct 2006

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Verbascum 'Blue Lagoon': First ever blue verbascum

Posted by Graham Rice on 30 Jan 2011 at 01:08 PM

Verbascum,blue,lagoon,Thompson,Morgan. Image ©Thompson & MorganWe’ve seen a vast variety of verbascums come and go in recent years, but we've never seen one like this – the first ever bright blue verbascum.

Reaching about 75cm/30in in height, with a noticeably upright habit, ‘Blue Lagoon’ is the result of some creative plant breeding by Thompson & Morgan’s plant breeder Charles Valin, who has created so many interesting new plants in recent years. He told me how it happened.

“It actually came about as a result of trying to breed a red verbascum,” he told me. “Red shades usually come from crosses between a yellow plant and a dark violet flowered plant. In 2006 I started growing many species to find one with the deepest possible violet colouring and among those I tried a species native to Armenia and Turkey and selected some of the darkest plants.

“In 2008 I selected one plant bearing violet flowers with a slight blue hue. In 2009 I expected its offspring to produce only violet flowers but one seedling was an extraordinary “Meconopsis” blue, a rare colour in flowers, let alone in verbascums!

“Everyone agreed that this was a stunning plant and had to go into immediate production. The plant was sent to a tissue culture laboratory for micro propagation to ensure rapid and identical multiplication. In this case the blue petals were used as the start material. This method has enabled us to offer plants only two years after selecting the first blue plant.”

This looks to be a dramatic breakthrough. I look forward to seeing it in gardens this summer.

You can order plants of Verbascum ‘Blue Lagoon’ from Thompson & Morgan.

Image ©Thompson and Morgan. Thank you.


Miranda Hodgson said:

Fascinating! Any idea what insects think of it?

'In this case the blue petals were used as the start material' - I had no idea that petals could be used as start material, that's amazing.

on 31 Jan 2011 at 02:55 PM

Graham Rice said:

No Miranda, I'd not heard of petals being used to start tissue culture. Amazing, isn't it... As for insects, I've no reports I'm afraid.

on 31 Jan 2011 at 04:43 PM