University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Winter Article


By Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor

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 colors!

 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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