Patriotic Perennials – Gardening Trend

Patriotic Perennials - Gardening Trend


Dr. Leonard Perry

Extension Nursery and Greenhouse Crops Specialist
University of Vermont

After the events of fall 2001, a new trend
in flower gardening is  emerging, that of planting perennial
gardens with a patriotic theme.  This trend calls for
using only plants with a patriotic name or only red,
white,  and blue flowers in your garden, or perhaps
a combination of the two.

If you are thinking of establishing a
patriotic perennial garden, this  is the time to start
planning and ordering your plants.  Some of these perennials
are old standards, others brand new.  Consider, for 
instance, the new Dianthus ‘Spangled Star’ with its
red flowers with white blotches.  Or you could include
the new Coreopsis ‘American Dream,’ an improved variation
of rosea with dark pink flowers that bloom most of 
the summer.

A new Peruvian Lily (Alstroemeria) suitable
for a patriotic garden is ‘Freedom.’ Developed at the
University of Connecticut, this garden  variety has
pink flowers, is about 30 inches high, and makes a great
cut flower.  Since it is only hardy to about USDA zone
6, it must be  thought of as a tender perennial in the
north and will need to be grown as an  annual.

Don’t forget the big groups like rose,
hosta, Siberian iris, and daylily.  For roses, consider
the tea roses ‘Mister Lincoln’ and, of course, the most
popular of all time, ‘Peace.’   Although not reliably
hardy in the north, these grow well if treated as annuals
and planted  in warm, fertile, and well-watered soils.

Hostas (also known as funkia or plantain
lily) are a good choice for  shady spots.  These include
‘Revolution,’ ‘Patriot,’ ‘Minuteman,’ ‘Pilgrim,’ ‘Loyalist,’
and ‘American Dream.’  Siberian irises with flag-waving
spirit-evoking names include ‘Manhattan Blues’ and ‘Over
in Gloryland.’   Like daylilies?  How about planting
‘Beloved Country’ and ‘American Revolution?’

For a red, white and blue theme, there
are too many choices to fully mention here.  You can
place these blooms in informal designs, the  various
colors contrasting and growing together.  Or plant them
in discrete  blocks of each color in a more formal design.

For red flowers consider many of the daylilies,
New York asters,  speedwell (Veronica) ‘Red Fox,’ or
dianthus.  These require sun, so if your  garden is
in the shade, you might plant some of the many red astilbes
or the  lungwort (Pulmonaria) ‘Red Start.’  Think about
the red clematis cultivars for vines, either climbing
a trellis or weaving through shrubs like hardy roses.
 Plant these with white roses, and you have two of the

For white flowers look at some “near
white” daylilies, asters,  speedwell, dianthus,
and clematis as above.  Or how about peonies, bee balm,
phlox (‘David’ is a vigorous and disease resistant one),
Siberian iris, foamflower, and Lamium ‘White Nancy,’ 
The latter, as well as many  hostas, have a lot of white
in their foliage as well, and are good for shade.

Blue usually is a harder color to find
in flowers, but Jacob’s ladder (Polemonium), Russian
sage (Perovskia, only reliably hardy to zone 5),  and
many of the Siberian irises are possibilities.  For
shade, plant the  ground covers bugleweed (Ajuga) and
periwinkle (Vinca minor).  Just beware  that many catalogs
may call a flower “blue” when in reality it
is red or  purple.

Blue is a hard color to reproduce in print,
so don’t rely on the photo  in the catalog.  It’s best
to view the plant in flower at your local  garden store
or ask the experts there for their advice.


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