20 pretty ways a patriotic color scheme can brighten your outdoor spaces.
"Red, white, and blue never gets boring to me," says garden designer Jon Carloftis. It's a color scheme that he says has a lot of possibilities and is quite popular today. But it was not always so: "I collect old garden books and it's entertaining to read how people were thinking in earlier decades. One of the funniest to me was 'Red, white, and blue in the garden should always be avoided.' Thank goodness people have been able to break out of the mold and do what they love," he says. One way to work it: flower beds filled with red knock-out roses, blue-violet salvia and verbena, and accented with crisp white fencing.
"White is always prevalent in my garden because it glows when I'm entertaining at night," Carloftis says. "And red is a color that packs a lot of punch and can be used for a real exclamation point. Red and white has such a clean, classic look." Here, they combine in a trio of sap buckets: Argyranthemum Molimba 'Double White' in a red container, 'Allure Red Passion' geraniums in a blue one, and Lobelia 'Laguna Sky Blue' in a white bucket.
Use a neutral container, such as this galvanized tub, to keep the focus on your colorful floral combo. This tub of sun-loving plants includes 'Overdam' variegated feather reed grass (Calamogrostis acutiflora), Pentas 'Starla Red', 'Titan Pure White' annual vinca, and Salvia 'Mystic Spires Blue'. Since pure blue is hard to come by in the plant world, look for flowers in the blue end of the purple spectrum. Gardening expert Helen Yoest suggests another combination: red hibiscus, blue and black salvia, and white cosmos.
Use vertical structures, such as an arbor, pergola, or porch supports, and you'll have your patriotic color scheme climbing the walls. Plant a climbing red rose and train it on a white-painted upright support, then add blue-violet clematis or hang a cheery birdhouse painted in blue and white checks.
Since true blue is so difficult to find in nature, search for containers that fill the role. This enameled metal tub in blue and white is a perfect foil for red annuals such as geraniums or petunias. Be sure to drill holes in the bottom of the tub to allow drainage and prevent the window box from becoming too heavy.
Create an explosion of blue faux-flowers with glass bottles. "A quick look at the flea market and you'll likely find cobalt blue bottles of various sizes and shapes," Yoest says. Push several lengths of rebar into your garden bed, top them with overturned bottles, and you have a wonderful garden focal point. Plant the area with red and white annuals. You can also "pick" a few bottle flowers when entertaining. "Arranged in groups of odd numbers, they can become candleholders and vases or even stand alone," she says.
Make an outdoor tabletop vignette with flea market finds. Fill an old gas can with cut flowers and place atop a braided red, white, and blue placemat. If your vintage container is not watertight, insert a small vase inside to hold the water before adding the flowers. Choose flowers such as these black-eyed Susans that contrast with your color scheme, or select red dianthus, white alstroemeria, or blue hydrangeas to match your palette.
Decorate your porch or patio like a permanent fireworks display. Attach metal painted stars to the house front or fence and drape a table in a star-spangled tablecloth. Toss star-printed pillows on the chairs and accent the table with red-, white-, and blue-striped candles that look more like Roman candles ready to explode into a sparkling display.
Table decorations in red, white, and blue make a fabulous seasonal celebration. Ground each place setting with blue denim placemats, strips of striped ribbon, and bandanna napkins. Top stacked blue and white plates with enameled red buckets lined with map-printed paper and fill with soft rolls or baguettes. A jaunty red-and-white rabbit weathervane makes a charming folk art centerpiece when flanked with white lilies in blue sap buckets. String pierced paper lanterns on a multisocket lantern cord and suspend from the porch ceiling with cup hooks.
Serve a simple snack or dessert at your gathering that fits in with your red, white, and blue theme. "Simple helpings of fresh-picked red raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries work just as well as a snack for the kids as they do for an elegant dessert with friends," Yoest says. Serve them in cones made of rolled parchment with whipped cream on ice for dipping.
Give your outdoor dining area a seasonal color makeover. "Drape your pergola with red cloth or set up red market umbrellas for improvised shade to cool your deck or patio during the summer and to add a sense of enclosure for alfresco dining," Yoest says. Paint an old farm table in bright blue and draw up some white-painted chairs. Add red cushions to the chairs for comfortable seating.
"Use white-painted lattice at the end of a porch or deck to serve as walls," Yoest says. The lattice encloses the space, adding a level of privacy without blocking the view. "Then add flowering plants, pillows, a tablecloth and striped rug in red, white, and blue, hang some twinkle lights, and your look is complete."
An entire color scheme is encapsulated in this pretty porch vignette. A painted blue rocker rests on a hand-painted blue-and-white floorcloth. A gorgeous red-and-white quilt is draped across the rocker, ready for use on a breezy evening. A white distressed table holds a navy planter filled with grass, while a red-ticking striped pillow sits nearby to offer additional comfort.
Give iconic outdoor furniture a new character with paint. Here, a pair of old Adirondack chairs acquire a facelift with blue paint. A matching settee gets a striped paint treatment with red and white. Add patterned cushions to the blue chairs and solid red ones to the striped piece for increased softness and comfort.
Layered in red, white, and blue, any outdoor space becomes patriotic. Set the scene by hanging a flag (hang the union—blue field—at the top left as it is viewed from the street or yard). Striped fabric, gathered and tied to the porch railing with heavy blue yarn, recalls classic bunting.
"Being patriotic is more than just the Fourth of July," Carloftis says. "There is nothing more beautiful than an American flag hanging on the side of a barn or off the corner of the house."