Fourth of July Garden Party Planning

It is the Fourth of July weekend, and it is time to celebrate. How does your landscape and garden look? This weekend is a prime weekend to have family and friends over to celebrate America’s birthday. For us gardeners, it is really important that our yards look as attractive as possible, although incorporating patriotic colors into an existing landscape can sometimes be challenging.

When you start looking at your landscape, think of the little things that you can do to decorate for the holiday, without doing a total makeover. Adding accents like American flags; red, white and blue banners; or pieces of Americana art are the easiest and can make a huge impact.

Yet, for gardeners like myself, we are always looking for another reason to purchase new plants, and what better reason to justify new plant purchases than America’s birthday. Blending in plants that incorporate red, white and blue can really bring that festive pop to your landscape for a July Fourth holiday barbecue.

Generally, when we design our landscapes, we focus on specific themes. We may design calming spaces with beautiful cool shades of blues, purples, pinks and whites. Or, we may plan invigorating areas featuring warmer colors that pop, like oranges, reds and bright yellows. With color schemes already in place in your garden, it may be hard to decide what to add for the holiday festivities. Remember, nothing needs to be permanent.

If you have a cool-themed landscape, you may want to add some white flowers in hanging baskets to accent the blues. For those of you with warmer color schemes, you could add some bursts of dark purple and white flowers to offset the brightness. These little additions to your garden can give your summer barbecue a whole new atmosphere.

One way you can decorate the landscape for the patriotic holiday is by adding potted plants. Just keep in mind, most plants love morning sunlight and can do without the hot, melting rays of the afternoon sun. For a low-cost option, you can go to your favorite local nursery and find already-potted plants that give you the colors you need. Or, if you feel your creative juices flowing, you can repurpose a water bucket, trough, wheelbarrow or even a barbecue into a planter that can be easily moved.

If you have a patio or arbor, add some color there too.

Many of the area’s nurseries are selling beautiful hanging baskets planted with flowers of all colors. The baskets are typically filled with Wave petunias, which cascade down to provide a full, colorful accent. When I went shopping this week, I even found hanging baskets specifically planted for the patriotic holiday with red, white and deep purple petunias. I ended up taking home a couple. One basket’s flowers were mostly white with a soft yellow, and the other one was planted with bright red petunias. They both accent my home, which is painted blue. When the celebrations of this weekend are over, I am just going to move the red flowers to the front porch and keep the white ones in the back. This will allow my backyard to keep its existing cool color scheme.

There are so many ideas out there, and a simple walk through your favorite local nursery can provide you with inspiration. You can also search the internet for more color combinations and creative planter ideas. Many local crafters offer creative garden pieces with the Americana style that are wonderful in your landscape and home year-round.

If you do not have the space for new plants, may it be in the landscape or on the patio, fresh-cut flowers can still be used to make your celebration festive. Carnations and daisies are frequently dyed and can be used in vases or even mason jars. I have even seen people get really creative and craft an American flag centerpiece with red and white carnations and blue daises. Talk about a centerpiece!

Whatever you decide to try, enjoy this patriotic holiday. Give thanks to those, past and present, whose service gives us the opportunities we have to enjoy weekends like these with family and friends. And, get out and enjoy the garden too, hopefully with some new, inspiring additions.

Picking patriotic plants

When it comes to picking out new flowers that have a patriotic feel, the first thing you have to determine is the amount of sunlight the area receives. Sun-loving flowers will require at least six-to-eight hours of sunlight to do well. Morning sun is easier on the plants than afternoon, but true sun-loving plants with adequate water do great in full afternoon sun. If you truly have full shade with little filtered light, then stick with the shade-loving annuals and perennials.

If you want full blooms for the whole summer, you need to stick with annuals. Annual flowers will continue to bloom until our first killing frost, whereas perennials usually bloom one time and then are finished for the season. An exception for perennial flowers are roses, which are actually considered a shrub.

If you have space for roses, it is very easy to incorporate beautiful, repeat-blooming roses of reds and whites. Unfortunately, you won’t find a blue rose because roses lack a specific pigment. There have been many efforts to add the gene pigment to the rose, but the closest color you will find is a lavender, so try another plant to bring the blue.

For summer-long blue flowers, plant annuals like Dwarf Blue Bachelor Buttons or a Midnight Blue Lobelia. Other options for patriotic colors include petunias and alyssum, which both come in red, white and blue. If you have shade or partial shade, work with annuals like nigella, lobelia and violas or salvias in both blue and red.

With so many options out there, make sure you visit a few nurseries, as they all carry different plants and pre-planted arrangements.


Wendy Hanson Mazet is a horticulturist and certified arborist with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. Have questions about your plants? Contact a Master Gardener at 775-336-0265 or, or visit