Garden patriotism — celebrate the holiday with these colorful shrubs | The Compleat Home Gardener

How to get some red, white, and blue into your gardens.

Meet Marianne Binetti at the Auburn Farmer’s Market on Sunday, July 7 from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. to give a free seminar on “Summer Garden Tips to Save you Time and Money” at the Les Grove Park. Additionally, there is a “Four Seasons of Color” Zoom presentation on July 10 at 6 p.m. To RSVP, email Finally, a “Container Gardening Tips and Tricks” community garden demo is being held on July 13 at The Shark Garden in Burien. Register at (or just show up).

The first week of July is your inspiration for an explosion of blooms in red, white and blue. But here’s the catch. Why not give these flag waving colors a loyal reputation of many happy returns by planting low care shrubs that flower like a flag during the month of July? These three new plant introductions will have you planting just once, and then enjoying years of dependable summer color. I have tested all three shrubs in my own garden, and I attest they thrive even in the strong winds and cold winters we experience in Enumclaw.

The rich red goddess: Calycanthus ‘Aphrodite’

An improved variety of sweetshrub with huge, wine-red, magnolia-like blooms that start to appear mid-summer. My Calycanthus is always in flower by the 4th of July and the fragrance is like sweet apples. The ‘Aphrodite’ Calycanthus has large shiny leaves and this shrub grew fast in part shade – it is five feet tall and six feet wide after four years. The size makes a great barrier along the property line. No pruning required and it could also be grown in a large container.

Tip: Looking for something different? Calcanthus was the most asked about shrub when I had garden tours this June. It is unusual but it should be planted more often. Calycanthus is not attractive to deer and very heat tolerant.

The elegant white bride: Hydrangea ‘Fairytale Bride’

The first ever cascading hydrangea, this pure white lace cap hydrangea grows in a natural horizontal form perfect for hanging baskets, tall urns or a wall or slope. It requires no deadheading. This new hydrangea does need at least 4 hours of sun to generate maximum blooms, but prefers shade from the hot afternoon sun. I grow my Hydrangea ‘Fairytale Bride’ in a tall, footed urn and fertilizer just once a year when new growth starts in March. This year it is covered with blooms on a shrub that spreads out 3 feet by 3 feet. This blooming bride is spectacular with cascades of flowers that last all summer.

Tip: Don’t make my mistake. I tried pruning just a bit to shape the plant the first two springs and I cut off flower buds. This year I did not prune at all. Twice as many blooms appeared. This type of hydrangea flowers on old wood. So, if you want more blooms, put away those pruners.

The true-blue performer: Hydrangea ‘Endless Summer’ the original

The hydrangea that started if all, flowering on both old and new wood so that even if you prune it a bit, or a late spring frost damages flower buds the ‘Endless Summer’ hydrangea will still flower. In Western Washington our soil is naturally acid so the blooms will be naturally blue. You can add lime sulfur to change the pH of the soil and once the soil is more basic, the flowers will be pink. This hydrangea prefers morning sun and afternoon shade. Make sure the soil does not dry out especially the first year after planting.

Tip: There are lots of shrubs with pink flowers (spirea, shrub roses, azaleas and rhododendrons) so celebrate our native soil and embrace the blue blooms on this repeat flowering hydrangea. Add even more intense blue color by making the soil more acid with a rhododendron and azalea fertilizer applied in the spring. The blooms will turn from light blue to navy.

Where to find these shrubs? Our local independent nurseries can order these plants for you if you don’t see them for sale now. I have also seen the Endless Summer hydrangea at big box stores.

Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and several other books. For answers to gardening questions, visit and click “As The Expert”. Copyright for this column owned by Marianne Binetti. For more gardening information, she can be reached at her website,