You may not be competing in next summer's Olympic Games, but you can still show your true colors as part of the Quiltscape program, said Paul Thomas, a horticulturist with the University of Georgia Extension Service.
The community project from the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games offers individuals, organizations and businesses a list of plants chosen to reflect the distinctive "Look of the Games."
The plants will help people create and display the Quilt of Leaves colors for the 1996 Olympic Games July 19 to Aug. 4.
"The Quiltscape program gives everyone a chance to be part of the event and look like it," he said. "You can use approved plants that are a part of the venues throughout the Games.
"You can spruce up your town square, your church and school grounds, your home flower garden or your office window box using the Quiltscape plant list," he said.
ACOG has released the "Look of the Games" plant list in the Olympic colors: blue, gold, green, purple and red.
The Olympic committee worked with Extension specialists, UGA horticulture faculty, commercial designers and landscapers to prepare a list of plants to match the colors of the games.
Plants were chosen for both sun and shade, tall and short, dry to moist growing conditions and heat tolerance for Georgia's infamous August weather.
"The group went through thousands of plants and selected those that are in bloom in August and are heat-tolerant and low-risk," Thomas said.
"The listed plants should look good under most weather conditions," he said. "ACOG wanted plants that would look good two weeks before the Games and at least a week after."
The list includes Georgia favorites such as ageratum, coleus, zinnia, butterfly bush, crape myrtle, hosta, impatiens and caladium. It also has black-eyed Susan, Christmas fern, elephant ear, crimson fountain grass and many others.
Commercial nurseries and garden centers plan to carry these selected plants to help homeowners and businesses take part in the Quiltscape program, which will officially begin in January.
"These plants will be available," Thomas said, "But if you know you'll need a large order, I recommend reserving your plants with your local nursery now.
"Get a soil test done, decide what to do to your site and buy plants and supplies early," he said. "With so many people involved, there may be shortages of plants and other materials like fertilizer, soil amendments, lime or pine straw."
Even with a tested plant list and the best intentions, growing flowers in August in Georgia won't be easy.
"It's important to know how you plan to water your plants," Thomas said. "If it rains, no problem. But if it's dry, you need to plan to irrigate or water early in the morning, not while visitors are admiring your handiwork."
To make sure the plants flower on schedule, consider buying one-gallon plants rather than the smaller bedding plants, Thomas said.
"They may cost more, but they have a larger root system," he said. "If we have our typical hot, dry August, small plants just won't make it."
For a brochure on the Quiltscape program, contact ACOG, Quiltscape Program, 250 Williams Street, Suite 6000, P. O. Box 1996, Atlanta, GA 30301-1996.
Your county Extension agent also has the Quiltscape plant list and brochures about growing perennials and annuals for next summer or any time.