A patriotic splash in the garden

July 6, 2011 

The first week of July is the time to celebrate the joys of the season with the best of the red, white and blues.

It is not too late to fill your garden with a patriotic palette using annuals in your pots and bed, and these great shrubs for long-lasting color.

THE BEST OF THE REDS

My favorite new geranium is called Calliope. This is also the name of an old-fashioned, steam-powered musical instrument known for the very loud tunes that blow from its pipes. This bold-blooming geranium will give any garden a colorful, carnival atmosphere. The bushy growth habit shows what happens when you take the best of the trailing or ivy leaf geranium and cross it with the traditional upright geranium. These vigorous plants do great in pots or in the ground and the deep-red color will not fade in full sun. What really sets off the bright shade of red is the deep green of the healthy foliage. Place just one Calliope geraniums into a pot or hanging baskets and you’ll have overflowing color that will last until October.

Now onto the best of the reds in shrubbery. The hottest red has got to be the fiery burning bush or Euonymus alatus compacta. So tough and drought-resistant that you can see them glowing along the freeways of Western Washington each fall. As long as the burning bush gets full sun and good air circulation these summer-green shrubs will fire up their foliage and turn a brilliant shade of crimson every autumn.

THE BEST OF THE WHITES

I love both the Lobularia Snow Princess and the trailing white bacopa Giant Snowflake but the winner for the fairest in the land when it comes to white flowers goes to the snow-white Giant Snowflake bacopa.

The blooms are bigger and better than any bacopa on the market.

The butterflies love this trailing, pest-free annual plant and it will bloom all summer and into the fall in either full sun, part sun or even in my garden, a mostly-shaded site. Like all bacopa plants, giant bacopa is not picky about the soil and once it gets a good root system it does not require a lot of water – but be warned, should you go on vacation and let bacopa dry out, it will take weeks for this plant to recover and produce more blooms.

If I had to provide garden gossip about this practically perfect and oh-so-pretty plant, it would be that bacopa needs good drainage and does not do well when planted directly into the ground in our damp climate. Use it to spill over rocks, in hanging baskets and as a spiller in container gardens.

My vote for the best white-blooming shrub is the lacy doublefile Viburnum (Viburnum plicatum tomentosum). Like a bride dressed in layers of lace, this viburnum is a vision of purity with a profusion of delicate white flower clusters each spring or summer. Local nurseries carry several versions of this easy-to-please shrub but the varieties Mariesii, Shasta and Summer Snowflake do best. As the name implies, Summer Snowflake blooms throughout the summer but needs evenly moist soil to produce the best blooms.

THE BEST OF THE BLUES

Who can argue with lobelia when it come to true-blue blooms? This old favorite flowers in the shade or sun, loves our cool, damp weather and never needs deadheading to keep it in bloom. The Lucia lobelia hybrids take more heat than other lobelias and you can choose from dark blue, sky blue, lavender blue, blue with a white eye or lilac shades of blue when you grow lovely lobelias in pots, beds or hanging baskets. Just remember to keep these annuals moist.

As for flowering shrubs, no plant could ever do as well, bloom as long or look as lovely in our climate than blue hydrangeas. Grow the dwarf Penny Mac, the intense blue Nikko, or the reblooming Endless Summer as all will turn blue in the naturally acid soils of Western Washington.

Marianne Binetti is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and eight other gardening books. She has a degree in horticulture from WSU and will answer questions from her website at binettigarden.com.

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