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One component of creating a picturesque garden is choosing colors. Colors evoke an emotion, provide an aesthetic appeal, awaken a memory, express a traditional custom or grab our attention. Red is the color we’ve selected for the month of February. Other color options will be explored in future Gardeners’ Dirt articles.
Centuries ago, there was a tradition of placing green holly with red berries in cold, wintry homes. Holly is an evergreen that survives in harsh conditions. And dreary winter needed a sign of optimism. The rugged holly reminded people that spring would arrive and new verdant growth would appear.
The bright red berries became a symbol of hope that life also would endure. Red, the color of blood, symbolized life.
Today, red and green color themes are seen throughout December in poinsettias, cyclamens, Christmas cactus and holly with berries. The color that signifies life was spotlighted in this column by Nancy Kramer’s January article on ferns.
Red evokes strong emotions and reactions. Thus, red roses and red carnations are choices for Valentine floral gifts.
Since my small garden needed a strong, attention-getting palette, I chose a red, monochromatic scheme. This scheme makes a more cohesive design. Red can be used in other ways to create interest. Variety can come by using tints for lighter colors or shades for darker colors. Pink, maroon, burgundy or copper are added to the red palette.
Red foliage can be incorporated for texture and nuance. The size and type of flowers also foster interest. Red flowers can be showcased by planting perennials, bulbs, annuals and wildflowers.
Perennials – Crape myrtles
Put a wow factor in the landscape with red blooming trees. Crape myrtles produce flowers for several months. Mature tree height sizes include dwarf — petite red (3 to 5 feet); intermediate — Cheyenne (5 to 10 feet); medium — dynamite (10-12 feet); and tall — red rocket (over 20 feet).
Perennials — Pentas and Mary Helen geranium
One of my favorite plants is the red pentas. Pentas is named for the five-pointed petals that make up the flowers. This slow-growing, warm weather perennial can grow to three feet. This full-sun plant is versatile because I can use it in border areas, hanging baskets or butterfly gardens.
Another favorite perennial is the Mary Helen geranium with its red-orange blooms. My garden has several pots in both sun and shade areas. It makes a wonderful “pass-a-long” plant because it is so adaptable to different light conditions and is easy to propagate. This super geranium tolerates Victoria summers and can be moved to sheltered areas for severe cold protection.
Bulbs — Amaryllis
Red-blooming bulbs remind me of a traffic light. When that bloom appears, I stop and look. Amaryllis are enjoyed at Christmas and the bulbs become summer bloomers in sunny areas. Dozens of red varieties are available. The Crossroads area has favorable conditions for St. Joseph’s lily (hardy amaryllis) as well as Lycoris radiata and red oxblood (schoolhouse lily). When they are left to colonize, they seem to form crimson villages.
Annuals – many choices
Annuals are available by buying plants or planting seeds. Showcase red blossoms in mass plantings, filled spaces or hanging baskets.
Patches of red and blue wildflowers dot the Texas countryside. Clusters of bluebonnets are reminiscent of calm waters. Among that calm scene, the red blossoms show up and catch your attention. Wildflowers are great xeriscape additions to gardens.
Red is my favorite color because it is bold and noticeable. Continuing to develop my red palette is easy because so many interesting red plants are available and grow beautifully in this area.
The Gardeners’ Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension – Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or [email protected], or comment on this column at VictoriaAdvocate.com.