By Heather O’Bryan
Columnist and Horticulturist
Every year, as Memorial day passes and America’s Independence Day approaches, my mind turns to the garden.  Not only because it is prime veggie garden season, but also for the knockout roses that need pruning and the new plantings I have planned.  That’s right, I am still planting in July!  I find that having a red white and blue themed planting is always a great way to to show your patriotic pride throughout the Summer months.  Here are some ways you can make a statement this 4th of July season.
Annuals are flowers you must plant annually.  That means they die back in cold weather and don’t come back.  There are some benefits to installing these short lived plants, the most important of which is that their main job is to bloom their little heads off until they die with minimal effort from the gardener.  They bring beauty to areas you can’t plant by living happily in containers.
To make a patriotic pot of plants, remember to follow the “Thriller, Filler, Spiller” method for creating a nice container planting by including something upright, such as a dracena spike, something that fills up the soil space like red and white petunias, and an overflowing plant for a spiller like “Snowstorm Blue” bacopa.  This planting is sure make an impression on all those visitors coming to your cook out.
Perennials are herbaceous plants that return year after year.  They are the good ol’ standbys of the garden and are so reliable that you could mark on the calendar when they will bloom.  Which comes in handy when planning a patriotic planting in the landscape as you will want them all to bloom from Memorial day to Independence day for maximum effect.
Some of the best, long blooming perennials are echinacea, also known as coneflower.  These prolific bloomers come in a wide variety of colors. Look for the varieties ‘Salsa Red’ and ‘White Swan’.  For a bit of texture, pair these daisy like plants with the spikey perennial ‘Blue Queen’ salvia. Not only will this combination all be blooming at the same time, but will binr happiness to the birds, bees and butterflies living in your yard.
Shade can be challenging, but there is one prolific blue bloomer that thrives in shade; the iconic hydrangea.  It might surprise you to hear that hydrangeas also come in white as well.  Put these two shady shrubs together and add a mass of bright red annual begonias and you will have a patriotic shade garden that will make all the neighbors jealous.
One thing to keep in mind is that most blue flowers aren’t a true blue, but rather more purple in hue.  It takes a bit of mind bending to accept that it will be difficult to find a true blue flowering plant and accept purple in its place.  Not to say that real blue flowers aren’t out there, but they are few and far between.
When planting your new patriotic plants, make sure to feed them appropriately.  Annuals will need a good potting soil with plenty of food for tender roots.  They will also need a good food that is high in phosphorus, an element essential for flower production.  Shrubs and perennials need a good dose of compost when planting and then a general fertilizer to keep them well fed during the hot Summer months.
Consistent watering is essential when planting in Summer.  Water deeply every morning to keep plants healthy and happy and producing roots.  Don’t skip this step, whatever you do.  You may have to water a second time during the day if the temps are in the 90s or above and the plant looks wilted and sad.  If you don’t have the time or patience for watering,  try setting up a soaker hose around the root zone of your new plants and put them on a timer for a good soaking twice a day throughout the hot months.
Planning a patriotic planting not only shows others how much you love your country, but it can give the you, the gardener, a sense of pride knowing you planned and successfully planted a beautiful part of your landscape.
Happy Independence Day