Gardeners' Dirt: Salute to red, white and blue - planting a patriotic garden
By Marcia Kauffman - Victoria County Master GardenerEdited by Charla Borchers Leon
Nov. 7, 2013 at 5:07 a.m.
Growing up in Pennsylvania, one of the original colonies, I appreciate the dedication of the generations of troops who fought for our country.
Each time I place my hand over my heart to salute our flag or sing our national anthem, I am reminded of the many freedoms and privileges we have in the United States of America.
In tribute to these many troops, I planted a red, white and blue garden. And while some of the plants were seasonal and selected for hot summer months, others thrive into the fall and beyond.
As a group, the plants present a patriotic picture for your planning purposes should you choose to include a red, white and blue garden in your landscape.
Red salvia, or "summer jewel red" or Salvia splendens, is a perennial that blooms from spring to autumn. Within 50 days, this plant can go from seed to a mature plant. It likes morning sun and afternoon shade to reward the grower with its brilliant red blooms. Its mature height is around 20 inches, which can give your garden a little mid-sized elevation. An added bonus of this brilliant, red-colored plant is that it attracts hummingbirds.
The red zinnia, or Zinnia elegans, can add a spark of red to your patriotic garden with its scarlet colors all summer long. These heat-resistant annuals like a sunny area, but will require extra moisture during our hot Texas summer days. However, when watering, don't allow moisture on the leaves, as that can cause mildew. Their mature heights range from 6 to 36 inches.
Nicotiana, or Nicotiana alata or Nicotiana sylvestris, is a perennial often grown for its fragrant, white, tubular blooms. This plant also referred to as flowering tobacco can be found in rose, red, scarlet, lime green and mauve. Although requiring little water, it needs to be watered frequently. Nicotiana can be grown easily from seeds and will reseed itself. Most of the year, it does well in full sun, but in the extreme heat of the south Texas summer, it needs afternoon shade.
White musical notes
You only have to look at musical notes clerodendrum or Clerodendrum incisum to understand why this name was chosen for this plant. This shrub can reach a height of 4 feet when it is grown in full morning sun or filtered shade. It likes well-drained, moist soil but can tolerate dry spells. It blooms from spring to fall.
The blue plumbago, a Texas Superstar, is an evergreen shrub that blooms a sky blue color in full sun. It is native to South Africa but grows well locally in favorable growing conditions with minimal soil preparation, minimal amount of additional water required and no use of pesticides. Also known as sky flower because of its vivid blue color, this shrub will bloom profusely if kept pruned.
For those of you who share your acreage with deer, this shrub is also deer resistant, a plus in Texas.
Baby blue eyes
Growing well in light, sandy soil is baby blue eyes, or Nemophila insignis. This annual blooms from March to May in partial shade with moderate water. This is a low-growing plant with blue cup-shaped flowers. It reaches a height between 6 to 12 inches, making it a good one for rock gardens or areas requiring different elevations.
Garden art in plans
When I was planning my garden I thought of the space and varieties of height, color and texture. I used white lantana in front, blue plumbago in the middle and the red bottlebrush in the back of the garden. A variation of this for a smaller garden could be white petunias, blue daze and red salvia. There are countless variations of the theme. Don't forget a little yard art to add even more color as well as the U.S. flag on patriotic days.
As we celebrate another Veterans Day, my hat goes off to the many veterans who have served their country and especially to those who laid down their lives out of love for their country.
The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment on this column at www.VictoriaAdvocate.com.