Goshen News, Goshen, IN

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July 5, 2013

DIRT ON GARDENING: Blue flax a common but beautiful sight in Indiana

This flower is a common sighting in early summer. It’s everywhere this time of year — from late spring to early and mid-summer. It appears mainly along roadsides where it is at home for all travelers to ogle.

They seem to not be particular about where they grow — just any old place — but prefer somewhat dry conditions. In fact, one might surmise, the dryer the better as concluded by passerby while traveling any roadway and that would include gravel roads.

I’m speaking of Blue flax (Linum perenne L.) or, as some might know it, Prairie flax which is actually more common in the western states than our mid-western and eastern states.

That aside, I’m saying in northern Indiana you will encounter it along nearly every county, state and Interstate highway you travel.

Fence rows are no exception either as witnessed by yours truly at the garden center I managed where each spring it grew wild along the chain-link fence surrounding our complex. Our starter-size perennials always included blue flax and once they bloomed they were gone in a flash.

Not letting a good thing slide by, I took the privilege of bolstering our supply by digging and potting numerous clusters to satisfy the demand. The following year they would be back from self-seeding of the remaining plants.

Linum perenne L. (blue flax) is of Euro-Asian origin while a sub-species Linum lewisii (pronounced LY-num loo-ISS-ee-eye) is of North American origin. They were discovered and documented by Meriwether Lewis, in whose honor they were named.

Blue fax is considered a perennial with blue-green needle-like leaves on stiff 1 to 2-foot tall stems with bright sky-blue flowers that, when seen from a short distance and in prolific patches, appear as blue water.

While they are perfect inclusions as a border in the garden they are even more impressive along a roadway where they appear as ribbons of blue. They are much more impressive en masse than in one or two plants.

But as prolific as these few are, they will soon give you a sizeable stand. They prefer an alkaline soil but will grow most anywhere except shade. Full sun with soil leaning to the dry side is perfect and don’t fret about sandy or gravel soil types, they love it, otherwise it wouldn’t be so prolific along dry roadways.

The plants themselves are of a semi-evergreen nature and are therefore useful as a fire control plant as well as an erosion control plant.

Planted in a normal residential garden they are a perfect complement to Stella de Oro daylilies but will not perform, unfortunately, the same length of time the daylilies do.

The raw seeds of blue flax contain cyanide so some precautions would be in order.

When cooked they are perfectly safe and produce a somewhat nutty taste when included in salads or other dishes.

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