Purple blooms in all their royal majesty

From the moment I took a look at the weather radar this morning, I was ready to batten down the hatches and prepare for a soggy, bumpy kind of day. On my way out the door to work, I considered (but decided against) leaving my camera at home since hoping for a lunch hour free of wind and rain seemed futile. Although the storms I saw cutting across the western part of the state with their angry red bow echoes dissipated before they reached us, I could see the wind puffing the trees as I walked towards the cafe where I often each lunch. Even at noon, it looked like the weather would get in the way of another day of photos.

Still, I walked over to the University of Illinois Plant Sciences Laboratory with the hope that I could at least find some blooms and foliage in the conservatory, whose only issues with climate are the regular spray misters that can leave a lens foggy without warning. I was certainly pleased to find a majestic palette of blue and purple flowers blooming at the entrance to the lab.

A single bearded iris (Iris germanica) with purple standards and falls painted with white highlights stood in peak bloom near the door.

A newly-planted Stokesia laevis ‘Blue Danube’ (Stoke’s Aster) held multiple flowers that reminded me more of Centaurea montana than a traditional aster flower.

A four foot wide clump of Nepeta (Catmint) leaned and danced as the wind puffed sporadically around the building.

An amazing patch of Aquilegia (Columbine) was the centerpiece of the northern side of the garden with its blue and white petals in perfect contrast to the center of yellow stamens.

A large stand of Siberian Iris (Iris sibirica) bordered a yew (Taxus sp.) hedge that forms the eastern side of the garden.

Seeing the Plant Sciences Laboratory entrance garden bathed in purple and blue today reminded me why monarchs of old chose these hues for their garments and tapestries. Their royal color was stunning, even on a day that didn’t seem to hold much promise for capturing their beauty.