PATRIOTIC PLANTING
Master gardeners gearing up for grand opening of educational gardens

May 24, 2007
BY CHARLA BORCHERS LEON - VICTORIA COUNTY MASTER GARDENER
PHOTO CREDIT:  CHARLA BORCHERS LEON, VICTORIA COUNTY MASTER GARDENER
Below the container garden patio and flag poles at VEG will be a military honor garden where over 300 personalized pathway pavers will be positioned (to the far right of the photograph) honoring those who have served or are serving in the military.  The red, white and blue verbena will spread and eventually cover the bed (in the front) with the red ruellia and white lantana up against the blue patio wall (in the back bed.)
When I think of stars and stripes, I see Old Glory fluttering atop a flagpole at places of significance. I hear a patriotic march by composer John Philip Sousa, and I think of American soldiers and veterans who, with their own rank of "stars and stripes," proudly salute the flag - the symbol of our country.

But as a gardener, I envision yet more. I see cottage garden landscapes and arbors with climbing foliage overflowing in blooming colors of red, white and blue. I see plants planted in an oversized rectangular flowerbed designed with a field of blue interspersed with white star pockets along side rows of red and white stripes replicating the American flag. I see permanent stars and stripes on garden art affixed to fences, walls, gates or on stands, not to mention patriotic flag banners and windsocks hanging from yard stands, balconies, tree limbs and building overhangs.

Oh, what a patriotic vision of red, white and blue - and permanently in place on those days when we should fly our flags: Armed Forces Day (May 19), Memorial Day (May 30), Flag Day (June 14) and Independence Day (July 4).

I can also foresee a designed area of walkway pavers boasting with stars and stripes of military rank honoring and remembering those who have served or are serving our country.

So let's turn up the sound of the patriotic march and head out to the Master Gardener Victoria Educational Gardens (VEG) at Victoria Regional Airport to see what's on parade. On Sunday, June 10, a much-anticipated celebration will take place at VEG when the red ribbon is cut and the flags are raised for the grand opening of the new expansion project.

With the first shovel dug in May 2001, the project, now complete with five phases and 19 mini gardens, totally encompasses the grounds of the old Foster Field Officer's Club.

WHAT'S NEW

Six years and $250,000 later, the new container patio garden, water and tropical gardens that fill the old club swimming pool, a daylily garden honoring Victoria's national daylily judge Bridey D. Greeson, and the heirloom, international, shade, xeriscape, meditation, perennial and seasonal cutting gardens, to name a few, will be on parade for all to see.

Garden structures like welcoming benches, a hand-built pergola, open air cathedral arbor for private meditation and an intricately designed gazebo pretty enough for wedding ceremonies that sets the backdrop for a turf grass demonstration area add character to the new garden complex.

Red, white and blue blooms
There is a patriotic garden with a covered arbor walkway and a large stars and stripes metal piece of art on the south wall of the Officer's Club building. In the garden are special varieties of white climbing roses planted next to the arbor posts the length of the walkway with various other red, white and blue accent plants growing in the bedded areas.

Of note will be the replicated stars and stripes rectangular flag flowerbed bursting in red, white and blue petunias. Look for the red dwarf and weeping bottlebrush plants, white potato vine, diamond frost plant and spider lily as well as various selections with blue blooms including the Argentina blue sage, wall germander herb, blue pea vine and blue skullcap.

Moving around the corner past the daylily garden and near the patio garden area, there are red, white and deep blue verbena planted in a large raised bed. Two other beds in front of the flagpole patio have red ragin' Cajun ruellia and white lantana up next to the blue wall of the patio floor. These elements of red, white and blue design are in full sun and heat for this time of year. In particular, the cascading verbena in all three colors will thrive and flourish in the openly exposed beds with dry, well-drained soil. The red ruellia will grow to about a foot tall and expand to 2 feet across with bright tomato red blooms until late fall. The white lantana will be good filler in that it broadens in size as more blooms develop. Both of these plants attract butterflies and hummingbirds with their aromatic nectar. All could survive a mild winter, but could be changed out for cool weather plants in similar color.

Our Salute

Next to these beds near the original patio fountain is a garden section devoted to personalized pathway pavers. More than 300 of them have been secured by those wishing to honor a loved one or friend in the military. Yet others have chosen to honor non-military family and friends in the garden by purchasing and placing pavers in a similar area that is adjacent to the container patio garden.

JOIN US

All of this - and more - will be on parade as the expansion gardens are officially opened and the military paver garden is dedicated to pomp and circumstance of the VFW color guard on Sunday, June 10, at 2 p.m. Flags flown over the U.S. Capitol and Texas Capitol buildings will be raised to permanent position and spotlighted at night into the future.

The Victoria County Master Gardeners have put in well over 10,000 hours of time into this project and welcome any and all of our readers, supporters and friends to the official grand opening. All would not have been possible without the generous support of Victoria County and Victoria Regional Airport personnel, numerous financial donors and in-kind contributions too numerous to mention. Look for more information about the project and event in this column in two weeks.

With VEG the heartbeat and pride of our group, we welcome one and all to experience the stars and stripes in the garden - and a whole lot more.

STARS AND STRIPES IN THE GARDEN

SUGGESTED RED, WHITE and BLUE BEDDING PLANTS
(WARM WEATHER)

Bedding plants in patriotic red, white and blue are available for both warm and cool weather plantings.  This partial list includes those that have successfully thrived in this area in warm weather.

Red                                 White                                            Blue 
Heirloom roses                 Antique roses                                Hardy lumbago
Dwarf bottle brush            White potato vine                         Argentina blue sage
Texas Star hibiscus           Powder puff                                   Blue daze
Strapleaf caladium            Diamond frost                               Hawaiian blue ageratum
Salvia                                Spider lily                                     Salvia
Verbena                            Verbena                                        Verbena
Penta                                 Penta                                            Blue skullcap
Petunia                              Petunia                                         Blue pea vine
Ruellia                               Lantana                                       Wall germander


Source:
Victoria County Master Gardeners/Texas Cooperative Extension


The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas Cooperative Extension-Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, Texas 77901; or vcmga@vicad.com, or comment on this column at www.VictoriaAdvocate.com.
PHOTO BY:  NANCY KRAMER, VICTORIA COUNTY MASTER GARDENER
Red, white and blue petunias have been planted to replicate the American flag with a field of blue and stripes in red and white in the patriotic garden at Victoria Educational Gardens (VEG).