I learned a while back that planting a flowerbed to celebrate a holiday makes little sense. That's where containers come into play. Be it a window box, terra cotta pot or tall olive jar, a container can be planted to reflect what’s current, then changed out with the season.
I am not much for festooning my porch with seasonal banners or flying a holiday flag, but I do like the idea of Fourth of July containers. I turned for advice to a trusted pro, Nikki Epstein, who specializes in window boxes and seasonal plantings for businesses. She was practically out the door en route for a trip to Chicago when I caught up with her.
“Containers make sense for the holidays, especially the Fourth of July,” she said. “And there are lots of combinations that can work.”
For a cheery take on an Independence Day container, Epstein suggests red geraniums (“they do great in all the heat and sun”), white verbena (which will trail out of the pot you choose) and blue daze.
“You can go tomorrow to see what’s in bloom and have a no-fuss display in time for family and friends to visit,” she said.
Plants that can stand in for red geraniums include the red versions of salvia, zinnias and begonias, plus cardinal flower and pentas. Whites are easy (“Even if it’s too hot for alyssum.”): White lobelia will trail just like the suggested verbena, and white vinca will mound nicely. But blue? Campanula, bachelor buttons, balloon flower and lobelia are the few alternate choices.
I decided to take Epstein at her word and visit the Lowe’s on Jefferson Highway to see what I could mix and match. When I got there, Bill Emling was busy watering but took a few minutes to chat.
“It’s the blues that are really hard to find,” he said. “Blue daze and balloon flower — that’s about it — and not many of our blue daze are in full bloom right now.”
Since retiring from his printing and direct mail business a few years ago, Emling said he has worked seasonally at the garden center and honed his skills.
“I’ll bet that I have learned as much from the customers as they have from me,” he said.
Emling continued with his tasks as I snooped around. There was no white verbena to be had but plenty of healthy looking white begonias and some fun white melampodium with yellow in the center. The balloon flowers looked swell, but there was hardly a bloom on the blue daze. Dark blue “Moody Blues” speedwell was trying very hard to look blue instead of purple, like the asters in the adjacent pots. I found plenty of red and white vinca as well as pentas.
I was about to leave when I spied an ingenious solution to the dearth of blue flowers for a patriotic planting: A dark blue pot holding a mound of white and red vinca.
“One of our growers sent us plants in blue pots instead of the usual gray or black for some reason, and they have been selling like crazy,” Emling said. “People feel like they’re getting something a little special.”
When the holiday is over, Epstein will begin working on back to school containers, mostly in school colors.
“It’s not hard to guess which colors are the most popular with LSU football fans, is it?” she asked.