On a bride's wedding day the old saying says she should wear "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue and a sixpence in her shoe". In America we seem to have mostly forgotten the sixpence tradition, especially since it is an old English coin no longer minted, but many think it is fun to include the other four items as a tradition. Weddings are, after all, very much about traditions. Do most brides know that these tokens are from an old English poem and represent talisman that would ward off the evil eye to ensure fertility? Probably not, and that's ok. Very often the something blue is a flower in the bride's bouquet.
Blue flowers are not very common in the natural world and have always been highly valued. So much so that the horticultural world often uses blue to describe many flowers that are, in fact, purple or lavender. We love blue in our gardens because it echoes the sky and the sea and it is restful color that combines so beatuifully with the green all around.
As a gardener for many years I sought out true blue flowers and have grown any that I could find. So when I laid my eyes on Tweedia caerulea for the first time last summer in a farmer friend's garden I quickly decided that I would try to grow it this year. She was generous in the information about how she had grown it and I purchased seed from several sources to ensure success. Caerulea is a Latin word which relates to a sky blue color, the heavens or the sea and whenever you see it in the proper name for a plant it is a hint at the color.
We've grown our Tweedia in a raised bed and hope to trick it into living through the winter even though it isn't really hardy in our zone. It is a south American native and prefers slightly warmer winters than ours, so we will also start new seed in January to ensure that we have more next summer.
I've been asked by several designers if we grow the white form, but as far as I can tell the seed for the white plant is all in the hands of much larger commercial growers in Europe and I don't know when I will ever get my hands on it. But I'm very happy with the beautiful sky blue variety.
The only downside to this beautiful plant is it's sap which is nearly impossible to get off your skin if it dries. It is in the milkweed family and has the typical milky white sap of these plants. I have finally taken care to start wearing disposable gloves when harvesting and processing the plant because many people are quite allergic to the sap and I don't want to develop an allergy. The sap also can cause delayed reaction damage in the eye which is quite serious and anyone who handles it should take great care never to touch their face when the sap is on their hands or gloves. We process the cut stems several times to get them to stop ozzing sap and during this time any little damage to the flowers or petals will ooze white sap. All this being said, it is the most beautiful cut flower and lasts forever in a vase. I wouldn't consider not growing it!
For a bride's bouquet a small piece of Tweedia is the perfect remembrance of the "something blue" tradition.