Saturday, July 2, 2011

Seeing Red

The flag at the Blackberry River Inn 

It’s probably just because I’m getting to be too set in my ways, but I find it depressing how things have changed since I was a kid.  Because it’s about to be the 4th of July, I’ve been thinking about the American flag.  I remember being taught that flying the flag wasn’t allowed in bad weather or after sunset.  When we were given the privilege of raising the flag at school we made sure it didn’t get dirty, wet or even touch the ground.

I guess once folks started burning the flag, all these ideas became obsolete, like ladies wearing hats in church or men dressing in a coat and tie at a cocktail party.  Nowadays I see the Stars and Stripes day and night, rain or shine.  I’m not being critical, just making a comment.  The only flag on Locust Hill is in the attic, has 38 stars and is probably full of moth holes.

I can remember when I was around eight or nine our class planted a flower bed that stunned us the following spring by bursting forth as the American flag – seven rows of red tulips interspersed with six rows of white ones and a blue square of I can’t remember what, probably scilla, with white stars.

I’m not so patriotic that I’d contemplate planting such a flower bed, any more than I’d overpay my taxes to help reduce the national debt.  Red, white and blue is a great color scheme for flags and 4th of July parades, little girls’ dresses and little boys bedspreads.

Red, by itself, is a very strong color so an all-red garden is almost too overpowering to consider.  I’d better add, in my opinion, since beds of red cannas or salvias are very popular. I prefer to use this hue more sparingly.  A single splash of crimson in the garden will catch the eye the same way a pretty girl just home from the Caribbean will sparkle at a winter cocktail party in New England.  If all the guests sported that same gorgeous tan instead of looking white and pallid, she might not stand out.  Too much of anything ceases to be an eye-catcher.

Most annuals are available in red, but both seeds and seedlings are usually sold in mixed colors.  Perennials are easier to find labeled by color, and because they bloom for a limited time, they focus attention on different parts of the garden each month. 

I"m more fond of pinks and blues and have very little red in my garden, but one perennial I particularly like is the blood red Russell lupine. Even when the nurseries don’t label their lupines as to color, you can tell the red by its leaves, which are much darker than those of the pinks, blues and whites.  Unfortunately my red lupines are past their prime so I went over the the Freund's Nursery for a photo.  This is Celosia, also known by its more common name, cockscomb.  It comes in yellow as well as red, a tender annual and easy to grow from seed.

The campions (Lychnis) which bloom in July, are  a nicely contained perennial standing two to three feet high with attractive foliage and large, rounded clusters of fire-engine red flowers.  You may know them as soldiers on the green or scarlet lightning.

Another July bloomer is Monarda, more commonly called beebalm. Its shaggy Raggedy Ann flowers attract hummingbirds, who shimmer and hum over the bright red petals, slurping up the sweet nectar. That’s the best thing about red flowers. Hummingbirds are addicted to them.  These tiny birds are such a treat to watch that even if you're like me and aren't fond of red flowers, you should grow a few just for that reason. 

Have a happy 4th of July, and be kind to your flag.

1 comment:

  1. Happy belated 4th to you, too, Hatsy. Re the flag - I think it's 'legal' to fly it at night if it is kept lit. Lots of people in our neck of the Arizona woods do that (flags are really big out there, literally and figuratively). My introduction to salvia came from Tibby. We were driving together somewhere when we passed an enormous bed of it. Those flowers are RED, she said, with heavy, loud emphasis on 'red.' I understood immediately what her point of view was on RED salvia! I agree with you - it's a great accent, but as a steady diet is apt to give heartburn.