For many Americans, the 4th of July is a time to fly the flag and dress in patriotic colors. But for gardeners, the fireworks start early as red, white and blue flowers begin taking shape in summer gardens. As nature’s palette changes from pastels to brights, white dons a crisp new uniform, red climbs from pink-tinged to bright and blue, well, that tends to be a different story, so please see below.
Hybrid tea rose
Red is the most attention-grabbing of colors and can provoke strong emotions that vary across cultures. In China, it’s considered a symbol of good luck and prosperity, while on Wall Street ‘in the red’ means you’re losing money. In the United States, the red stripes on the flag are meant to symbolize ‘hardiness and valor.’
In fact, scarlet has been the color of the uniform of the Corps of Artillery since 1777.
In the summer garden, red flowers make a bold statement, too, especially when framed by red’s complementary color, green. Try grouping red flowers further back in the border in front of an evergreen hedge, combine them with other ‘hot’ colors for a strong composition, or cool them down by pairing them with silvers. Either way, people will stand up and notice.
And just like the stripes on the flag, white flowers offer a crisp contrast.
Quince ‘Double Take ‘Scarlet’
Crimson bottlebrush, Callistemon citrinus
‘Mister Lincoln’ Hybrid Tea Rose
Begonia ‘Dragon’s Blood’
Geranium ‘Americana Red’
Dahlia ‘Bishop of llandaff’
Daylily ‘Always Afternoon’
Asiatic lily (red)
Gaillardia ‘Spin Top Orange Halo’
The purest of all colors in terms of composition, white is considered in most cultures to be symbolic of goodness and light. It can also indicate safety and cleanliness and is the color of perfection. On the American flag, the white stripes signify purity and innocence.
In the summer garden, white has a certain innocent quality, too. White plants reflect light, instantly brightening and drawing attention to key areas of the garden. And planted alone, they act as beacons, calling attention to themselves while highlighting other colors.
White flowers look great planted in drifts in a mixed-color border, or you can go all-out and create an all-white garden, planting them as thick as hasty pudding.
Drift of white echinacea
Here are some of the best and brightest white flowers:
Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’
Mock Orange ‘Snow White Sensation’
Azalea ‘Delaware Valley White’
Rose ‘Boule de Neige’
Phlox paniculata ‘David’
Iris germanica ‘Immortality’
Allium ‘Mount Everest’
Echinacea ‘Pow Wow White’
Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’
Physostegia virginiana ‘Crystal Peak White’
Himalayan blue poppy
On the color spectrum, blue is found at the other end from red. It is considered the hardest color to see. For this reason, it is known as a cool color. On the American flag, blue is the color of the Chief and signifies vigilance, perseverance and justice.
In the summer garden, blue colors appear to recede and can be used to add depth and volume to a composition. The only problem with blue flowers is that there aren’t many that are actually blue. Most are tinged with lavender or purple.
Here are the truest blue flowers I’ve found to date:
Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Nikko Blue’
‘Bluebird’ lacecap hydrangea
Caryopteris ‘Longwood Blue’
Blue coleus, also know as bush coleus
Gentian Sage, Salvia patens
Lewis flax, Linum lewisii
Muscari aucheri ‘Blue Magic’
Mostly blue with lavender tinge
Hidcote Blue English Lavender
Veronica spicata ‘Royal Candles’
Russian sage, Perovskia
God bless America,
Land that I love,
Stand beside her and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above;
Wishing you all a very Happy Fourth of July!