The Scarlet Flower
It’s a grey day, one of a long line of grey days, and I am feeling color deprived. So I thought: why not write about some favorite flowers by color?
Readers of this blog know that my favorite colors in the garden are orange and blue. However, I’ve already written about orange and blue flowers. (To read those posts, click here or here.) But not red.
Red is associated with blood and anger, but also with passion and romance. As hot colors go, I find orange to be more cheerful and upbeat. Red often seems to have a brooding quality, especially later in the season. Even so, I like red flowers very much. In fact, I aim to have some red flowers in every season.
First, of course, are the tulips. Tulipa praestans ‘Fusilier’ is a very early red species tulip that will wake you up after your winter slumber.
Later comes the Early Single Tulip ‘Couleur Cardinal’. You could argue that this tulip is more purple than red, as it has purple flaming on a background of scarlet. But why hide this beauty on a technicality?
In May comes ‘Kingsblood’, with dark red tepals bordered in scarlet.
After tulips come peonies. Paeonia anomala is an early bloomer with ferny foliage.
The peony ‘America’ blooms later and looks upward, whereas P. anomala nods a bit.
Asiatic Lilies start blooming in early summer. I’ve long ago forgotten the names of the Asiatic Lily varieties growing in the garden. They are the decendents of a naturalizing mix planted long, long ago. Odd that the current generation is mostly orange, but there are also some yellow and a few dark red.
When it comes to red daylilies (Hemerocallis), my favorite is ‘Chicago Apache’. Truthfully, it’s the only red daylily I have, so it’s a good thing I think it is also the best.
Another early summer red is provided by the native North American vine, Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens). This plant reminds me of one of the challenging things about color in the garden: few flowers bloom in a pure color of any kind. Take this Honeysuckle, for example. You could argue it is more pink than red.
As summer progresses most of the red in our garden comes from ‘Raspberry Wine’ Bee Balm (Monarda didyma).
This is another plant that is somewhat ambiguous as to color. Is it really the color of raspberries? I’ve been told that the color raspberry comes from mixing red with maroon. But rather than being a touch dark, this variety seems to have a slight purplish cast.
Indian Pink (Spigelia marylandica) is a good red flower for later in the summer, though when it opens there is a yellow star at the end of the red trumpet. My understanding, by the way, is that this is called “Pink” not because of the color but because it looks like it was cut with pinking shears.
Fortunately, there are many annuals that come in a wide variety of reds. Here’s ‘Disco Red’, a variety of Marigold (Tagetes patula) of which I am fond.
Pentas, or Star Flower (Pentas lanceolata) is another annual that comes in some good strong reds. And that’s Cigar Plant (Cuphea ignea) with the tubular flowers – arguably red though possibly closer to orange.
In my view the best of all the red flowers is one that, sadly, I don’t grow anymore: Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis). Few plants can match it’s clear, striking scarlet (though scarlet is supposed to be red with a touch of orange).
Unfortunately, Cardinal Flower is short lived and rather fussy as to its cultural needs. For years it kept dying on me and I kept replanting it. Finally, I gave up.
What’s your favorite red flower that you grow in your garden?