By July, our landscapes may look a bit weary from all the Oklahoma heat. One way to brighten up your garden or patio in time for a July 4 gathering is to create a patriotic salute to America.

Why not show your patriotism with a festive red, white and blue container for your table or patio? Or better yet, plant a patriotic flower bed with red, white and blue flowers that will brighten up any landscape for America's Independence Day. Assembling a patriotic container is very easy and inexpensive, as well. Here are some step-by-step instructions for creating a lovely patriotic pot.

First, find a large container with good drainage holes that is at least 18 inches wide. It doesn't have to be a fancy pot -- anything left over in your garden can be festive. If your pot is deep and you don't want to spend a fortune in potting soil, fill the bottom third of your pot with crushed Styrofoam or empty plastic soda bottles (lids on).

This will help keep the weight of the finished pot to a manageable level so it can be moved. Next, add a layer of potting soil, leaving room at the top for your plants.

Choosing red, white and blue plants for your container is not difficult; there are many plants that will work just fine and create a lovely patriotic display. For red plants, try geraniums, petunias, annual salvia, verbena, pentas or celosia for sun, or begonias and impatiens for shade.

White flowers are readily available as well, including petunias, zinnias, geraniums, phlox and cosmos for sun, and begonias and impatiens for shade. Finding blue flowers is a bit more challenging, but blue daze, ageratum and salvia -- all sun-loving -- come closest.

One really true blue flower you might want to try is the balloon flower. You can use deep purple petunias and verbena, as well as lobelia (heat-loving variety) for a close-to-blue option. For a nice contrast, you can use green leafed plants like coleus and dusty miller for fillers and insert your red, white and blue flowers into the pot with them.

Finally, decide how you want to arrange your plants, place them on top of the soil in the pot and fill in with more soil around the plants. Water your pot thoroughly after planting and place in a sunny or shady spot in your garden, or use your pot as a centerpiece for your picnic table.

There are many other possibilities to create a patriotic atmosphere. Choose vessels that are red and blue and plant them with only white flowers. Tie a red, white and blue ribbon around your pots to further emphasize the colors. Insert a flag in your pots for an added touch; small flags are readily available at local craft or dollar stores, and they are usually inexpensive.

If you have other pots arranged in your yard or patio, place small flags or colorful, patriotic pinwheels in the pots. It doesn't matter what colors of plants and flowers you have, as the flags or pinwheels give a patriotic flair. Remember to check pots for water; plants in pots dry out faster and will need frequent watering on hot days. If you want to create a striking landscape, try planting a patriotic garden bed instead of a planter. You can plant your patriotic colored plants in rows or sections.

Try these combinations: 1) Red Sweet William, White Angelonia (summer snapdragon) and Blue Daze, all heat-tolerant and sun-loving; 2) Red Tropical Sage, White Vinca and Blue Trailing Lobelia is another good combination, although lobelia may be difficult to find this late in the season; 3) Choose Red Penta, White Lantana and Blue Sage for another striking grouping in a garden bed. Patriotic garden beds can be a stunning addition to any home.

Show your American pride on America's birthday by creating a patriotic container or garden bed to place in a conspicuous spot in your landscape. You'll be delighted with the results.

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