Flag cake

Flag cake

Spending time with family, eating deliciously, and watching fireworks are the traditional ways of celebrating the birth of our nation. I make a flag cake each year.

Some people, however, celebrate by creating red, white and blue gardens. It’s not as easy as it sounds because many reds have orange or pink undertones and many blues are actually purple.

Astilbe 'Montgomery' (photo by Moose Crossing)

Astilbe ‘Montgomery’ (photo by Moose Crossing)

Astilbe 'Glut'

Astilbe ‘Glut’

Some true reds are Astilbe, Hibiscus ‘Pinot Noir’, and a plethora of daylilies. The best red astilbes are ‘Montgomery’ (24”), ‘Glut’ (30”), and ‘Fanal’ (24”). As you know, Astilbe prefers part shade and ongoing moisture.

Hibiscus 'Pinot Noir' closeup

Hibiscus ‘Pinot Noir’ closeup

Hibiscus ‘Pinot Noir’ has been a favorite of mine for several years. It is a dwarf, growing only two and a half feet high and wide but the flowers are huge and the plant blooms continuously from the middle of July through September.

Echinacea 'Jade'

Echinacea ‘Jade’

The whites that come immediately to mind are Leucanthemum (Shasta Daisy) and Echinacea (Cone Flower) but remember that several Heuchera (Coral Bells) have sprays of tiny white flowers. For a long time, ‘Becky’ was my Shasta Daisy cultivar of choice but lately, I have been impressed with ‘Daisy Duke’. She’s a bit shorter at two feet but blooms just as long. For white Echinacea, I have always loved ‘Jade’ which has a green cone and is two feet tall and the three foot ‘Fragrant Angel’ for its scent.

Heuchera villosa  'Autumn Bride' in bloom

Heuchera villosa ‘Autumn Bride’ in bloom

Some of the Heuchera that have white flowers are those that have villosa heritage such as ‘Autumn Bride’ (green leaves) and ‘Venus’ which has silver foliage with dark green veins. Some of the Heucherella cultivars, like ‘Sweet Tea’, also have white flowers. I love the contrast of the apricot leaves and the white sprays.


True blue is hard to find. Yes, you can find it in Delphinium but they’re best treated as annuals. I love Aconitum but they are picky about their siting – full sun but relatively moist soil. So for blue, I rely on Myosotis, Amsonia, and Veronica. I also use hydrangeas but those are the basis of another post.

Myosotis sylvatica

Myosotis sylvatica

Myosotis sylvatica (Woodland Forget-Me-Not) is very short, has sky blue flowers and reseeds like crazy. In May, it is absolutely charming. By the middle of June, the stems and deadheads are nearly black and I just pull them but by then, the seedlings are already appearing.

Amsonia hubrichtii flower closeup

Amsonia hubrichtii flower closeup


Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’ (Dancing Oaks)

Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’ photo by Dancing Oaks)

In June, Amsonia starts to bloom. A.hubrichtii also has sky blue flowers but the foliage is feathery and turns golden yellow in the fall. It is three feet tall and will slowly increase in diameter. A.’Blue Ice’ is a medium blue and only one foot high but is finally starting to enlarge its diameter. It is definitely a unique color but the foliage does not change color in the fall.

Veronica 'Royal Candles'

Veronica ‘Royal Candles’

There are many Veronica but few are true blue. V.spicata ‘Royal Candles’ grows about eighteen inches tall and blooms in late June and keeps going until August if deadheaded. The flowering spikes are quite dense and sit well above the foliage.

What else have you used to create this color scheme?