Planting Red, White and Blue for Fourth

TIMES GARDEN EDITOR

A few gardeners are singing "Hooray for the Red, White and Blue" this weekend with planting schemes that mimic those Fourth of July colors. What could be better, or more appropriate, for a party on the Fourth, than red, white and blue flowers?

And, it's not too late to plant such a scheme since all of the appropriate plants can be found, in flower, at nurseries in quart or gallon cans. Even a few popped into pots will brighten a front porch or patio.

This is what those annuals sold in full flower in quart pots or gallon cans are for--instant, last-minute color for a special occasion, such as a Fourth of July celebration.

Garden designer Jane Brooks of Color Garden in Torrance planted two red, white and blue gardens last year for clients. In one she used shocking red annual salvia, blue perennial salvia and a little white daisy named Chrysanthemum paludosum. In warmer inland gardens other white daisies would be a better choice, perhaps the short Snow Lady strain of Shasta daisy, or a small white marguerite, both of which are in full flower right now.

In the other garden, she used red and white petunias with blue lobelia and blue salvia. In both cases, purists might object to calling the petunias or lobelia "blue," but they come close enough and true blue flowers are very scarce indeed. There may, in fact, be no flower that matches the dark blue found on Old Glory.

Ageratum is another possibility, blue enough to go with red and white petunias, and also available at nurseries in full flower. This flower can take coastal or inland temperatures, as can the petunias, though the petunias might show some smog damage later in the season. The smaller flowered multiflora type of petunia is more resistant to smog than the larger flowered grandiflora strains.

Because these plants are annuals and will only last the season, there is no need to untangle the matted roots when you take them out of their nursery containers. You might actually set them back by doing so.

What they need at this time of the year is water almost every day at first if planted in the ground, but not a whole lot. They are annuals and are shallow rooted so a short, shallow watering suits them fine.

Planted in pots they will definitely need water every day once their roots begin to fill the containers.

If you are worried about watering them during a drought, consider an efficient drip-irrigation system for those in the ground, and a thick mulch of something like mushroom compost. The drip system can be one of those temporary affairs, sold as kits at nurseries and building supply stores. Or, water them by hand with a long watering wand so you are wetting only the base of the plants.

In pots, water can be applied even more precisely and in areas where rationing is in full effect, they can even be watered with gray water salvaged from the bath tub.

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