Tending the Phlox

The tall garden phlox (phlox paniculata) is coming into full bloom around here and I’m pleased.  This smugness comes from the fact that last year I replanted several favorites into a new bed which had been dug over properly, composted, mulched, and then protected from bunnies in the spring.  Sometimes effort is rewarded and this time it was, in the form of healthy, strong blooming phlox.garden phlox paniculata

A better gardener would have blended them into a well thought out perennial border, mixing the colors with interesting foliage and varied forms…. but I’m not there yet.  Plus I like my phlox in heavy doses.  Overkill some might say.

Barsixty (coral flame is the trademarked name) is first in line.  I really shouldn’t not like it but there are a few little annoying things that get to me.  I think it’s too short, this is the first year it looks nice (after a couple dud years), and the edges of the blooms curl up a bit.  For many gardens, the ~16inch height is perfect and the curling adds interest, so it’s got a place in my garden… but I’m just saying I like other phlox more!garden phlox paniculata

I love “Laura”, it’s about two feet tall (which I still think is on the short side) but she always puts on a great show and looks good for weeks.  Here Laura is in the front with phlox “Nicky” towards the back.  Nicky is a little darker and booms a few days earlier.  (This section has been picked over by the kids, the big dark flowers are too tempting for little flower pluckers.)garden phlox paniculata

I’m kind of a snob with other plants but not with phlox.  Having named phlox is great for knowing what you have (and not buying the same plant twice!) but it doesn’t guarantee a nice plant in the garden.  I think this white is great, but it’s just a stray seedling that came up a couple years ago.  It’s about three feet tall and although pure white is always perfect, I like the way this one has small dots of red at the bloom center and a reddish blush on each bloom stem. garden phlox paniculata

I took this picture yesterday when the clump really hit full bloom.garden phlox paniculata

This one I don’t know the name for,  I think it might be “starfire” but can’t say for sure.  The color is great (if you like the reds!) and I like how the foliage and stems have a darker tint to them.  It’s a little floppy though….. garden phlox paniculata

I need more of the clear pinks.  Here is “Bright Eyes” which I got just last fall, it came as a rootbound 4″ potted plant and will probably need one more growing season before it takes off.  I love the packed flower heads but they tend to hold onto dead flowers.  “Franz Schubert” is just starting to the left.  It’s another one in need of more settling in time.garden phlox paniculata

This white seedling may still earn itself a spot in the phlox bed.  It’s a short early blooming seedling which opens with a pink flush and later fades to pure white.  We’ll see if it gets moved in the fall…..garden phlox paniculataPhlox do well in pretty much the same conditions as any other garden flower.  Even moisture, fertile soil, sun to light shade and you should be able to make them happy.  In the spring I do nothing more than cut the old stems down and then come summer the only other thing I do is admire the flowers.  For many gardeners powdery mildew is a problem, and I wish I had some brilliant solution but I don’t.  Mildew is just not much of a problem in my yard, probably because it’s a real open, breezy location near the top of a hill.  The air movement likely helps but I can’t say for sure since as we speak the monarda plants are covered in mildew and they’re just a few feet away.

My most annoying phlox growing problem is the spider mite attacks.  They build up under the leaves and suck and suck until the leaves start to look speckled and yellow.  Spraying the undersides of the leaves seems to help wash them away but the best defense seems to be consistent moisture and plenty of compost and fertilizer.  Dry spring weather, warm breezes (which keeps away the mildew) and stressed plants seem to just call the mites in from all around.

Another problem I’ve had (which made me leave all the phlox behind the last time I moved) are eelworms.  They’re tiny worms which live in the stems and buds of infected plants.  They cause the stems to distort and ruin the nice big flower heads of a healthy plant.  The only solution I’ve heard of is to grow new plants from root cuttings, destroy all the old ones and find a new spot to grow phlox….. or move.

I just want to end by saying I need more phlox.  I think I’ve kind of run through all the local sources and have what most mailorder sources offer, but I know there are more great phlox out there!  I may have found a source at Perennial Pleasures, a Vermont nursery that specializes in heirloom plants and also has dozens of phlox varieties available.  I’ve heard good things about them and it’s very likely an autumn order will show up at my doorstep.




12 comments on “Tending the Phlox

  1. Sounds like you are a true lover of phlox, your phlox border certainly looks great. Also sounds like you are lucky in your garden location. I like the big fluffy flower mounds of the panniculata Phlox, though all I have is a couple of the white ‘David’. I do like ‘Nicky’ and ‘Laura’, they make a cute couple.

    • bittster says:

      Thanks, David is such a good phlox to have. I hear it’s one of the best as far as mildew resistance goes. I like how you call the flowers “big fluffy mounds”…. it really sums up the look!

  2. They look wonderful! I have ‘David’ and a lavender-pink one that limps along. They both need more sunlight than I have given them. I am a sucker for purple flowers and think I may need to add Laura and Nicky into my melange.

    • bittster says:

      Up until I improved the soil I had a couple that limped along too. It seems like some of the named varieties are picky compared to random seedlings that show up….. some seedlings grow in the worst spots and still manage to do well (but the colors aren’t always the nicest). Laura is a good one for me though, and flowers well even in a bad spot -although I’ve never tried shade.

  3. pbmgarden says:

    “Nicky” is a beauty. I like the way you’re growing them–every garden should have phlox and this is the first year the deer have left mine alone.

    • bittster says:

      Uh oh. That little bit of encouragement might have just tipped me over the edge! I was considering doubling the phlox border and now I’m pretty sure I’m going to. It will be a nice total-phlox-immersion garden 🙂 just what everyone needs, right? I’m glad you caught a break from the deer, they can really do so much damage all at once.

  4. Like you, I too have lots of Phlox. I love all the color too. The bed looks good in all the candy colors. This year I am betting mine get powdery mildew due to the weather. The lilac already has it which is kinda rare.

    • bittster says:

      I can’t figure mildew out. It’s all over the monarda and some cucumber vines but the phlox and lilac are fine. For some reason Monarda hates my garden, I think it’s too open and dry. The cucumbers just hate me, since I never have much luck growing them 🙂

  5. hilomark says:

    Consider a nice family trip up to Perennial Pleasures in VT! They have a phlox fest in August, and seeing the phlox “on the hoof” is very helpful! Vermont really has some treasures when it comes to nurseries. “Standing Stone Nursery” was not easy to find, but worth the trip. Another plant that really is important to see “in person” are daylilies, and we also visited an incredible daylily farm on the trip to the phlox fest.

    • bittster says:

      A family trip to Vermont would be awesome, we are actually trying a test trip tomorrow for an overnight camping trip, if it goes well we might ramp up to a new England trip next summer! I’d have to think of some reason to trick everyone into going to phlox fest though, if I let them in on it too early they’ll all revolt! They don’t all seem to get as excited about different phlox cultivars. Some family members are even borderline sarcastic when color nuances are pointed out.
      A vacation centered around nursery visits…. what an idea. I feel like everything on our trips is still centered around purple dinosaurs and water slides!

  6. […] a post by Tending the Phlox got me to thinking about all the wonderful and colorful Fall flowering cool weather loving […]

  7. […] photo quality long enough, I hope you’ll see her still blooming away into September while ‘barsixty’ (coral flame) towards the front is just a shriveled brown mess.  The freshness might not be with […]

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