- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Planting red, white and blue flowers to show American pride does not require a green thumb. The Loudoun County Master Gardener volunteers’ demonstration garden shows that using just three annuals can provide a patriotic color scheme. The Master Gardeners have planted white petunias on the edges with red zinnias in the middle and blue salvia to either side in two flower beds in the demonstration garden in Ida Lee Park in Leesburg, Va.

“We took some common annual plants to demonstrate how you could create a colorful anniversary garden,” says Sharon Harris, Master Gardener volunteer with the Loudoun County Extension Office in Leesburg. “The particular plants that we selected, they pretty much maintain themselves.”

Watering and occasional weeding are the only requirements for the plants, Ms. Harris says.

The Virginia Cooperative Extension, housed at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, is encouraging Virginians to plant patriotic-themed gardens this year and next to help with the America’s 400th Anniversary celebration in 2007, which commemorates the 1607 founding of Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in the Americas. Through the America’s Anniversary Garden project, avid and inexperienced gardeners, along with cities and towns, will be showing America’s colors.

“It’s not just events. It’s about what’s happening in your back yard,” says Ross Richardson, director of marketing communications for Jamestown 2007, a subagency of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation. The foundation, an educational institution in Williamsburg, promotes awareness of Virginia’s role in the nation’s creation. The subagency, also in Williamsburg, is heading up the anniversary celebration.

“Gardening is something a lot of people can participate in. Of course, agriculture was one of the defining characteristics of the Jamestown Settlement. It made sense to combine the two,” Mr. Richardson says.

America’s 400th Anniversary: The Journey That Changed the World is the official commemoration of Jamestown’s founding in 1607. The commemoration began in May and will continue for 18 months with educational programs, cultural events, fairs and entertainment throughout the state.

“America’s anniversary at Jamestown has hit at a very good time when there is a lot of patriotism anyway because of the war in Iraq,” says Nancy Hargroves, president of the Virginia Federation of Garden Clubs Inc., a nonprofit organization in Richmond that promotes the love of gardening and floral design.

“Virginia is so rich in history, and we need to be proud of that,” she says.

The America’s Anniversary Garden project encourages both beautification of the state and the activity of gardening, currently the No. 1hobby among Americans, Mrs. Hargroves says.

The hobby is one that does not require a lot of space, says Sara Reed, a Master Gardener volunteer for the Loudoun County Extension Office.

“It is, number one, raising awareness of gardening, and that is something that is aesthetically pleasing as well as having the mental health benefit of watching things grow,” Mrs. Reed says.

A committee of cooperative extension staff and Virginia Tech horticulture faculty received a $25,000 grant from the Jamestown 2007 Commission to develop and promote the anniversary gardening project. The idea is for cities, towns, schools, businesses, parks and public gardens to plant anniversary gardens near buildings and welcome signs at city, town and neighborhood entrance corridors, and in street medians.

The Virginia Cooperative Extension used some of the funds to develop several “Plant America’s Anniversary Garden” publications in handout and online form. The publications provide ideas for a patriotic color scheme in landscape beds and corridor plantings. They include plant lists recommending various annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees that produce red, white or blue flowers, fruit, leaves and stems.

“The idea behind it is to get people who are new to gardening interested in gardening, plus give ideas to people who already are into gardening,” says Debbie Dillion, urban horticulturist for the Loudoun County Extension Office in Leesburg.

Experienced gardeners can review the plant lists and plant something they have not tried before, says Monica Lear, horticulture extension agent for the Arlington County Extension Office.

“Diversity in your planting is always a good thing. It’s not interesting to grow the same thing all the time,” says Ms. Lear, who holds a doctorate in plant pathology.

One of the publications provides planting instructions for homeowners, with tips on soil preparation, planting annuals and perennials and watering and mulching the plants. The publication offers two garden plans, one for an 8-by-10-foot landscape bed and the second for a 20-inch-wide container, both of which require full sun.

“The literature that has been produced is the baseline, and people can use their own creativity and personalize these gardens to their own interests,” Mr. Richardson says.

The plant lists were selected primarily for color and include native plants and plants that are easy to find and grow, says Joyce Latimer, professor of horticulture at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg and extension specialist for greenhouse crops for the Virginia Cooperative Extension.

“We saw it as a way to unify the state in red, white and blue,” say Mrs. Latimer, who holds a doctorate in horticulture.

The publications and other materials about the gardening project, such as posters and fliers, are distributed by extension offices throughout the state, Master Gardener volunteers, 14 partner organizations of America’s Anniversary Garden, such as the Virginia Federation of Garden Clubs, and more than 70 nurseries and garden centers that are serving as participating retailers.

More than half of the approximately 160 communities signed up as participating communities of the 400th anniversary celebration plan to plant anniversary gardens, Mr. Richardson says.

“I think it will be one of the most popular programs of the commemoration because it’s something everybody can do, and it’s easy to do. And, of course, nicely landscaped yards not only add a lot to a commemoration, but also to a neighborhood,” he says.

Planting plans

For information on planning an America’s Anniversary Garden, go to Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Web site at www.ext.vt.edu/americasgarden/index.html. For information about America’s 400th Anniversary, go to www.americas400thanniversary.com. Here is a sampling of suggested plants for an anniversary garden, provided by the Virginia Cooperative Extension at www.ext.vt.edu/americasgarden/plantlist/homegarden.html.

• Red flowers:

Lantana Patriot Cherry, annual

Pentas New Look Red, annual

Day lily Frankly Scarlet, perennial

• White flowers:

Angelonia Angelface White, annual

Bacopa Snowstorm, annual

Shasta Daisy Snowcap, perennial

• Blue flowers:

Salvia Victoria Blue, annual

Geranium Rozanne, perennial

Veronica Goodness Grows, perennial

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