Plant of the moment: Omphalodes Cherry Ingram

We’re not sure why, but there seem to be an awful lot of spring-blooming perennials that have blue flowers. Nothing wrong with that, any colour is welcome after the dull dark days of winter, but we have always wondered about that fact and whether there is any reason for it. Putting all that aside, one of our favourite perennials that brightens up the early part of the season is Omphalodes Cherry Ingram.

The reason this charming little plant gets the nod as plant of the moment is that we have just spotted the striking blue flowers peeping out from the mounds of evergreen foliage of our stock plants on a cold early February morning. The leaves are ovate to lanceolate, as the RHS would say, with a nice fine point to them and of good strong green, and they form a shapely low clump that will provide a degree of groundcover in a shady spot, with the bonus of being evergreen, as mentioned above. We find that stripping off the older leaves that have come through the winter around the outside of the clump about now, so as to let the fresh new growth take over works well, but take care not to damage the emerging flowers. When they have come through fully, the flowers are in lax flowing clusters of little clear blue starry five-petalled flowers with a hint of white to the centre. Although it is pretty much a spring bloomer, we have had Cherry Ingram in flower right into June.

There are a number of species of Omphalodes, but Cherry Ingram is a variety of Omphalodes Cappadocica, which is native to woodlands in Turkey and sports larger and darker flowers than the species. There are other named varieties in circulation, including a particularly long-blooming one called All Summer Blues (which we have yet to see other than in a photograph), but for us Cherry Ingram is hard to beat. The name has nothing to do with colour (as you might expect, cherry red being in quite another part of the colour spectrum!) but is a reference to Collingwood Ingram, ornithologist and botanist whose passion for the flowering Japanese cherry gave him his nickname and our plant its varietal name. The Latin name Omphalodes and the odd-sounding common name navelwort both refer to the shape of the seeds. So now you know.

So if you’ve got a shady spot somewhere that could do with a bit of greenery in winter and a cheerful display of vibrant blue flowers in spring, Omphalodes Cherry Ingram should certainly be on your list of possibilities. Pretty much trouble free: give it any reasonable soil that doesn’t become dry and a bit of shade, and it will happily do its thing for you without asking much of you.

Omphalodes Cherry Ingram is available to buy from the Paddock Plants website using this link.

Rob and Joanna – February 2018

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