Part 1. Red Flowers
By Mary Free, Extension Master Gardener
On President’s Day, we posted the first of a two part series, Planning for the Red, White and Blue. Part 1. Displaying the Colors Year-Round introduced resources to help you plan and design patriotic themed groupings or gardens for interest throughout the year. Posted soon thereafter, Part 2. Displaying the Colors on Independence Day focused on red, white, and blue perennials—both native and non-native—that would be likely to bloom on July 4. At that time, we promised to follow-up with pictures of some of those red, white, and blue flowers that we found blooming in local gardens on July 4 of years past.
In the founding of the United States, there is symbolism in the use of these colors in the creation of the Great Seal of the United States, an emblem and coat of arms for a new nation. Although the colors were adopted from the American flag, they were given meaning by Charles Thomson, secretary of the Continental Congress, who described their use in the Seal: “The colours of the pales are those used in the flag of the United States of America; White signifies purity and innocence, Red, hardiness & valour, and Blue, the colour of the Chief signifies vigilance, perseverance & justice.”
Today we salute Independence Day with red—roses in the Bon Air Memorial Rose Garden, and a rose among hummingbird favorites in the Glencarlyn Library Community Garden, in Arlington, Virginia, (exception noted) observed on the holiday in 2017 and 2018.
Red is a prominent color among the many roses abloom in the Bon Air Memorial Rose Garden on Independence Day. Photos © 2019 Mary Free.
Introduced to America in colonial times, the white-flowered species Achillea millefolium (yarrow) has been mostly replaced today by the myriad colors of its cultivars, like the rose-colored one above. Photo © 2019 Mary Free.
The red flowers of the lovely native, semi-evergreen vine Lonicera sempervirens (trumpet honeysuckle) reliably attract hummingbirds to my garden. The red fruit reportedly appeals to purple finches, goldfinches, and American robins. The blue-green foliage hosts larvae of spring azure butterflies and snowberry clearwing moths. Photo © 2019 Mary Free.
Discovered near the Blue Ridge Parkway, Monarda didyma ‘Jacob Cline’ (scarlet beebalm) is considered a natural selection of wild native bee balm. In trials, ‘Jacob Cline’ “faired quite well against the dreaded powdery mildew” and was “a major hit” with hummers (“Mt. Cuba Center Puts Nativars to the Test,” 2/6/18). It also attracts other pollinators like the pictured female Xylocopa virginica (eastern carpenter bee). Photo © 2019 Mary Free.
In early August, after fueling up on Lonicera nectar (see the video: Lonicera Vines with Hummingbirds), a female Archilochus colubris (ruby-throated hummingbird) moves on to the Monarda. While feeding on a fading flower, a second hummer chases her away. This four-second video clip is in slow motion—it may be easy to track a hovering hummer but its normal flight speed is about 30 miles per hour. Video © 2019 Mary Free.
The perennial Salvia microphylla (small-leaf sage) is native to southeastern Arizona and Mexico. The striking bi-color cultivar ‘Hot Lips’ displays well in a sunny garden and attracts hummingbirds. Photo © 2019 Mary Free.
- In Defense of Plants. February 2018. “Mt. Cuba Center Puts Nativars to the Test.” http://www.indefenseofplants.com/blog/2018/2/6/mt-cuba-center-puts-nativars-to-the-test
- U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Public Affairs. July 2003. “The Great Seal of the United States.” https://2009-2017.state.gov/documents/organization/27807.pdf