In honor of the Fourth, a showy trio of blooms

With it being the Fourth and all, I thought it might be timely to report on my favorite red, white and blue combination container. While the possibilities are endless, I will keep it short. Too many options just confuse the issue and send us into “analysis paralysis.”

Red: Geraniums, of course, are simply hard to beat in the Northwest for nonstop color with minimal inputs on our part. Give them full sun, or even a half day of sun, and they will reward us with large clusters of flowers all summer long. You may be surprised to know that this doesn’t happen everywhere in the world. Where I moved from in central California, geraniums actually stop blooming in the summer when it gets into the 80s and 90s, but this is not the case in our mild maritime climate. My favorite varieties are the Americana series with either dark red or cherry red flowers. These are cutting grown varieties and have the largest flowers of the geraniums. Keep them well fed and remove the spent flowers, and they will bloom all summer and look especially nice over the Fourth of July.

White: Two options come to mind; both are Proven Winner introductions. Lobelia Laguna White or Snow Crystals Alyssum are both incredible bloomers that will never skip a beat all summer long. The Lobelia is more of a trailer that will spill down the side of a container 12 to 14 inches. Snow Crystals is more of a mounder or filler, growing 12 inches tall and 14 to 18 inches across. Both of these will grow in full sun to half a day of sun and as long as you keep them fed they will bloom continuously without ever having to be dead-headed (and I mean never). They will even work in a semi-shade location.

Blue: As much as I would love to promote delphiniums as a stunning centerpiece (read: thriller), unless you have a very large pot, they will grow too tall, and, of course, they only bloom for 5 to 6 weeks, after which you would need to have some other plant to step into the roll of focal point. So, for a seasonal plant that blooms all summer and offers a very nice contrast in texture, my all-time favorite is Victoria Salvia, an upright growing annual with spiky cluster of blue flowers all summer long. I have fond memories of this plant growing up in San Diego, where it was a perennial in our garden and bloomed most of the year. The clumps got bigger every year and were always very showy. Around here Victoria is a little slow to get going, so it is best to start with at least a 4-inch plant but probably best to go with a gallon size for instant gratification and balance in the container.

So for my patriotic Fourth of July container, I use Victoria Salvia for my thriller, Americana dark red geranium for the filler and Lobelia Laguna White or Snow Crystals Alyssum for my spiller. This combo will keep looking sharp all summer long, and you will probably grow tired of it before it grows tired of you.

Happy Independence Day.

Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery and can be reached at

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