The Blue Lobelia
The blue lobelia represented a pretty group of dwarf-growing, wiry-habited, free-flowering plants, mostly of a shade of blue, but occasionally of a white, rosy purple or a pucy pink.
According to the treatment they received, they could be either annuals or perennials – hot dry summers tended to see them only as annuals, but a wet cool summer might see them survive through to the next season.
A quick way of making stock was to ‘tear the plants to pieces in the autumn’ and pot the little rooted tufts in sandy soil and store them away in a greenhouse or pit. They could also be propagated by cuttings, or from growing from seed.
Lobelias required a deep, rich, moist soil. If the garden soil was poor and dry, then it needed to be enriched with plenty of leaf mould, rotten turf, and old hotbed manure. They should be protected from frosts in winter (perhaps over-wintering in a greenhouse or pit).
There were two British varieties: L. urens, a rare plant generally found on the heaths near Axminster, and L. Dortmanna, a rather showy water-plant with blue flowers. The usual plants grown in the Victorian border were natives of Mexico, L. cardinalis, L. splendens and L. fulgens, or of the Cape of Good Hope, L. bicolor and L. campanulata.
Information and image taken from F. Edward Hulme and Shirley Hibberd, Familiar Garden Flowers (Cassell, Peter, Galpin and Co.: London: c. 1890), 5 vols.