Red, white and blue flowers, plants help display patriotism

 

November 13, 2003

by

Nancy Kramer, Master Gardener Intern

 

Veterans Day, like Memorial Day, Flag Day, and Independence Day, has always made me reflect back to those individuals and events that instilled patriotism in me. I remember my parents working on "poppy day" every year in the spring. I remember Dad taking part in American Legion ceremonies. I also remember going to the Veterans Day parades in which Crain School participated during my 31 years of teaching there. It was always nice to get out in the cool weather, especially when we had a day off, and listen to all the school bands that came to downtown Victoria to participate in Veterans Day programs.

 

Since I became involved in the Master Gardener program, I have wanted to research which red, white and blue flowers would be best to plant for a "patriotic garden" for such holidays. With Veterans Day having been earlier this week, I am reminded that patriotic garden presentations are a way to display pride in my country and living appreciation for those who helped make it free.

 

The first thing to consider in patriotic gardening is the blending of plants with red, white and blue flowers or foliage. It is wise to choose plants that have the same needs in water, light and soil condition or fertilizers. Also consider choosing plants that are adapted well to our area and to each other so that pest management is easier. You will also need to select plants of varying heights and textures for grouping, although I prefer to choose plants more for the "feelings" I have about them.

 

For the upcoming winter months, an obvious red, white and blue combination is red and white cyclamen with blue lobelia or violas. One should also not forget certain varieties of pansies that thrive throughout the winter months into the spring. The crown series have the more true red, white and blue colors. Crown rose or crown scarlet come closest to patriotic red while crown white pansies are solid white. Crown true blue and sky blue pansies are vivid in patriotic blue color. This time of year, too, red or white snapdragons or petunias work well. I prefer the dwarf snapdragons. As for petunias, the red, white and true blue carpet series petunias are good selections. They are low, mounding plants and bloom in the winter throughout the spring. Sweet white alyssum (Lobularia maritima) blooms solid from fall to late spring, but not when extremely hot. It is an excellent plant for a Veterans Day garden in fall season direct sun and even into Memorial Day in the spring. Sometimes sheering it back will stimulate more blooms, and alyssum will re-seed.

 

There are a number of red and white flowering plants for the spring and summer. Those in the blue tones are least available, but do exist.

 

Let's look at the REDS first. Because of "poppy day" the red poppy is one of my first choices for the spring. It is nice to have in your garden in May for Memorial Day. As an aside, Georgetown, Texas is the Red Poppy Capital of Texas and celebrates with a festival each April. An excellent web site for learning about the red poppy is

 

http://www.legion-aux.org/Programs/Poppy/index.aspx

 

The poppy will re-seed and return year after year. My favorite red blooming plant is the penta, which flourishes in the summer and into the fall in our part of the state. It is medium height and attracts a lot of butterflies. Other medium height red plants are zinnias, dwarf hibiscus, cannas, red geraniums, and, of course, red roses often used for remembrance. Some other shorter red plants which are best for spring into summer heat are the vinca rosea or periwinkles, begonias, purslane, moss rose, dianthas, cockscomb, verbenas, and the miniature red rose. The variety of vinca to select is the Jaio dark red. There are many types of red salvias, but I prefer the Salvia splendens from the garden centers rather than the Salvia coccinea that the birds planted for me. Pineapple sage, also called Salvia elegans, is also a nice red plant. The annual splendens stays smaller, and the others grow to a shrub size and reseed themselves attracting more butterflies and hummingbirds. Impatiens are best for shadier areas. A taller, but less flowery favorite is the jatropha. Make sure you select the spicy jatropha known as Jatropha integerrima. Red oleander is also a taller red flowering plant as are many varieties of red hibiscus. Another great tall red plant is the bottlebrush. Crepe myrtles also come in beautiful shades of red.

 

Now, for the WHITES. My personal favorite is the white spider lily, although my grandmother always called it "The Fourth of July Lily." As I walked through the neighborhood from June to July, I noticed many of these blooming, but not for long. These would not make a good white selection for fall and winter planting. I really like the "Maid of Orleans" jasmine because it smells like gardenias and blooms all day long. Its scientific name is Jasmium sambac. My survey of whites also resulted in white moss rose as well as roses. My favorite has to be the white vinca or periwinkle, called the Mediterranean polka dot. It is a pretty white flower with a red eye. White impatiens and Confederate or star jasmine also come to mind. There is a lovely white Rose of Sharon (Althea) with a red center, white crepe myrtles, white lantana, and white begonias.

 

BLUES are the last I will address and the least easy to acquire. You need to be careful in choosing the right shade of blue for a patriotic setting. The plumbago is my favorite for having the showiest flower. It is also the hardiest and almost appears to act like a native plant. I have seen many plumbagos in dry areas with vivid blue blooms. Another beautiful blue flower plant is the blue daze (Evolvulus). It is a creeping plant and tolerates full sun. It is great for a hanging basket in a patriotic grouping. The most symbolic blue for this area is the Texas bluebonnet. Now is the time to plant your bluebonnet seed for spring blooms.

 

To find the right plants for optimum color for May through November, I surveyed my subdivision in Victoria. All the plants were in bloom in Colony Creek, especially in June and July, but some are still blooming away as we approach mid - November. I know there are other patriotic landscaping ideas, but I have written about the plants I saw in my neighborhood in May through September.

 

Another way to design landscaping in patriotic colors is to use structures such as white lattice, painted pots, a statue, landscape stones or edging. Wooden Uncle Sam cut-outs, blue or red bird houses or feeders and blue or red gazing globes can also add patriotic color. Flying "Old Glory" and/or the "Texas Flag", or using ribbons, bows, or bunting of red, white and blue is another alternative. Care should be taken for proper flag etiquette which can be reviewed at: http://www.ushistory.org/betsy/flagetiq.html  

 

A red penta and spicy jatrophas with white alyssum and dwarf snapdragons are grouped with a blue plumbago in the sensory section of the Victoria Educational Gardens. The American and Texas flags, along with a red cardinal and white with blue birdhouse, complete this Veterans Day garden presentation.

 

These types of commemorative displays are vivid reminders that we appreciate the land in which we live and are devoted to making our country the best we can make it. After doing my research, I helped plan and plant a small patriotic bed in the sensory section of the Victoria Educational Gardens for Veterans Day. Hopefully some of the perennial plants will last and bloom through next May, and even into June and July.