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Red in the Garden All Year Long

In home design, neutral colors are those easy-going tones that don’t offend. They partner easily with other colors or serve as backdrops for more assertive accent colors. In the garden, the obvious choice of a neutral color is green, and red is a dramatic accent color in front of or over green foliage.

In spring, the show begins with red-flowering tulips. As any child with a box of crayons knows, tulips are best colored red. Bright red tulips epitomize the exuberance of spring. They are gorgeous combined with cheerful yellow daffodils in a carpet of blue squill. If solid red is a little too intense for your taste, choose a multi-colored tulip, and then partner it with a plant that blooms in one of its other colors.

As spring turns to summer, possibilities for plants with red blossoms are abundant. Poppies, both annual and perennial varieties, can fill the garden with true, clear red. They are just as fetching dotting drifts of soft pinks and lavenders as they are blazing in plantings of white daisies and golden black-eyed Susan.

Daylilies are some of the easiest perennials to grow, and their contribution to the garden is substantial. Choose varieties with overlapping bloom times and you can have red daylilies glowing in the border from June to September.

And then there is bee balm, clematis,  hibiscus, lilies, yarrow…the list of candidates goes on and on.

There are plenty of annual flowers that bloom in red. Celosia, salvia, petunias, and verbenas are all good choices. Red geraniums are another popular option and are readily available. Plant some in empty spots between maturing perennials, as an edging to the border, or in container gardens.

Shady gardens become more inviting with touches of red, too. Astilbes perform beautifully in shaded, moist soils. Cardinal flowers (Lobelia cardinalis) sport spikes of brilliant red. You will love them almost as much as the hummingbirds.

The best gardens are not built on annual and perennial plants alone. They need the structure that only woody plants can provide.

Roses contribute some of the strongest reds to the landscape. Low maintenance, trouble-free shrub roses add summer-long red to the garden. The Knock Out and Drift series of roses are both beautiful and easy to care for. Knock Out roses grow 3 to 4 feet tall and wide; Drift roses are smaller reaching 1 to 2 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide.

The color red is essential in the fall landscape. Maple leaves turn shades of red; berries ripen to red. The changing foliage of gro-low sumac, oakleaf hydrangea, and red chokeberry put on an impressive show.

Annuals and perennials offer red in foliage and flowers. The blooms of garden mums star in the fall border. The foliage of some varieties of perennial geraniums smolders.

Long after crimson leaves have fallen from trees and shrubs, red is striking against winter snow. Hawthorns and crabapples hold on to their fruit longer than other trees. The stems of red twig dogwood glow. Winterberry holly (Ilex verticillata) boasts vibrant red berries after its leaves have fallen.

Use red as an accent color in your landscape and experience a season’s worth of red letter days. Wear red today to raise awareness of women’s heart health and then plan to add red-flowering plants to your landscape. Gardening is good for women’s heart health, too. Garden with me!




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