Red, White And Blue Hues

THE REAL DIRT

July 03, 1994|By MIKE KLINGAMAN

Three cheers for the red, white and blue . . . flowers. Those patriotic posies whose colors capture my heart come the Fourth of July. The red geraniums growing in a tub on our patio. The white cosmos climbing the split-rail fence. The blue ageratum exploding in the window box on the front porch, just beneath the American flag that is flying there.

Not far from Old Glory grows a morning glory, twining up the porch post, its blue, trumpetlike blossoms heralding the start of summer.

Hooray for the red, white and blue . . . vegetables. The patriotic produce that conjures up memories of victory gardens past. The cherry tomatoes ripening brightly on the vine. The bright white heads of cauliflower begging to be picked. The purple-pod bush beans dangling from the plants. (Purple is as close as nature comes to creating a blue vegetable. If there's a true blue veggie, I've yet to find it.)

Why the obsession with these all-American plants? As Independence Day approaches, I am moved to act. I want to pay tribute to the land of the free by growing all the red, white and blue flowers, fruits and vegetables I can find.

If that sounds like corn, you've got the idea. Silver Queen is as white as corn comes.

One can manage quite well from a red, white and blue vegetable patch. Our garden is already aglow with fat crimson tomatoes, scarlet radishes, blood-red beets and ruby-red lettuce. And red hot peppers, of course. Also green peppers, which eventually turn red if left on the plant.

Besides corn and cauliflower, white veggies include patty pan squash and icicle radishes. Never mind that some of these crops grow underground; I'll admire their colors at harvest.

There are always white mushrooms sprouting up in our lawn.

As for "blue" veggies, I'll go with eggplant, purple sweet peppers and purple snap beans. The beans turn green when cooked, but that doesn't make them any less patriotic in the garden. I've also heard tell of a blue-skinned potato, but have never seen it for sale.

I've long pledged allegiance to the three red apple trees in our yard; a cherry would fit in quite nicely. I've wanted to plant strawberries and red raspberries for a number of years; now I have the incentive to do so.

I'm told that blueberry bushes make a handsome hedge, and that grapes are a welcome addition, given a sturdy arbor and a planting spot far from the house. Wasps love grapes. People hate wasps.

There are hundreds of red, white and blue ornamentals from which to choose. I've seen entire gardens landscaped to resemble the American flag: One was created from red and white tulips and blue hyacinths; another flag was comprised entirely of petunias.

Such flag gardens seem gimmicky and pretentious to me. Besides, what if a fungus claims one of the stars? What if a blight wipes out one of the stripes?

Flag gardens are also difficult to appreciate unless viewed from an airplane.

I'd rather space my patriotic posies around the yard and enjoy them in more natural settings, as with the blazing red spikes of red salvia that surround our bird bath. Or the dainty white spires of lily of the valley that are thriving in the shade of a fragrant blue lilac.

Each color sets its own mood for the garden. Red flowers add excitement and drama. Who isn't stimulated by the sight of a Mr. Lincoln rose or a fiery red cockscomb?

Whites bring a cleansing purity to the daytime landscape, while creating a near-spiritual quality at twilight. At night, when I glance at the bed of white alyssum growing by the porch, the flowers seem to twinkle in the moonlight. I feel almost giddy, as though I'm soaring high in the air above bright city lights.

Blue flowers evoke a sense of coolness and peace. I could gaze for hours at the lavender plants cascading over our patio, and the bumblebees hovering over the delicate blue spikes.

I'm also fond of the pretty blue lobelia growing in our back yard. Its color reminds me of the water in our community pool. The pool is cool.

Forget the flowers for an hour. What's the Fourth of July without a nice cold swim?

Last one in is a rotten eggplant.

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