During the first week of July, patriotic flower gardens are in the spotlight. Now is the time to celebrate a revolution with more summer color. Many nurseries and garden centers put flowers and vegetables on sale this week.
Here are the best plants for summer color from sea to shining sea: (Actually from the Pacific Ocean to the Columbia River — our unique climate zone of Western Washington.)
Big red: Big, bold leaves and deep red blooms make calliope or big red geranium act almost like a ground cover in sunny beds or large pots. Break off the faded flowers by pulling the stem of the bloom away from the main stalk. You will hear a satisfying snap as you tidy up and dead-head geraniums.
More searing scarlet bloomers: Red verbena, red petunias and ivy geraniums for the sun, and in the shade tuberous begonias offer intense red color.
Bright white petunias: Easy Wave White and New Surfinia White. The Easy Wave series of petunias are spreading, profuse growers with large blossoms that stand up to heat. The Wave petunia is more disease-resistant than other petunias. The Surfinia petunias are trailing petunias better for containers and hanging baskets and are self-cleaning, disease-resistant and bounce back from summer rainstorms. Both come in a pure white version that sets off other bright bloomers and shows off in evening displays.
More white bloomers: For sunny sites snapdragons, lilies, delphiniums and geraniums. In the shade garden, white impatiens, lobelia, begonias and hosta with white variegation in the leaves.
True blue: Delphiniums win the blue ribbon for best true-blue summer flower. Here in Western Washington, our cool summer climate is perfect for raising show-stopping spires of deep blue, sky blue or purple blue delphiniums and every gardener should fuss over delphiniums at least once in their lives. These divas do demand at least half day of sun, rich, well-drained fertile soil and staking to protect them from wind and rainstorms.
Small-space delphiniums: The Summer Series: These multi-branched delphiniums are more compact but may still need a cage or stake to support them. Summer Blues is sky blue; Summer Nights is a deep navy blue, the same shade you’ll find in our American flag.
Tall delphiniums: The Pacific hybrids will stop traffic with spires of blooms up to 6 feet tall. Cut back the stems when most of the flowers fade, then fertilize and you’ll enjoy an encore performance from all delphiniums.
More blue blooms: Ageratum, salvia and scaevola for the sun and, for shaded sites, lobelia and hydrangeas give months of true blue blossoms.
Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of several books. Reach her at binettigarden.com.