In a brutal world where a person were limited to growing just two plants, I’d chose snowdrops and phlox. Snowdrops have an awfully long ‘down’ season, but phlox carry on through the summer and if you can assume that this cruel two-plants-only world doesn’t have any other issues going on, I think phlox season would keep me pretty happy. The phlox family is an attractive family to begin with, but today I’m talking tall garden phlox, Phlox paniculata. Purists would call them North American native plants, but native flower is not something I think of when they burst into bloom, and as phlox season ramps up around here I can’t picture these hybrids fooling anyone into adding them into their patriotic natives only planting schemes.
I’m stretching things with the native part as I know most people are not putting these plants in as part of a program to make America great again, and are rather planting natives for their attractions and benefits to native pollinators and wildlife, so I guess if I have a point here (since as usual I’m all over the place this morning) it’s that these were once wildflowers but now fit right in with the fancy delphiniums and chrysanthemums.
There’s a real risk that the phlox will slowly take over the potager completely and leave me with zero space for actual vegetables, but that’s a chance I’ll take. It’s not the idea spot for them since the relentless sun and drying winds invite pests such as spider mites in, but as long as I keep them fairly well watered and make sure their diet is complete (they enjoy a rich soil), the phlox do well enough.
Like I said, although “the phlox do well enough” here, not everyone is completely happy. The 1990 Piet Oudolf introduction ‘Blue Paradise’ has yet to take off. Flowering is no problem with even the most pathetic stalk blooming, but it’s been floppy and mildewy and just plain miserable in its spot (everything which it’s supposed to not be). Of course I’m to blame since it seems to take off for everyone else, but maybe this fall I can move it and find just the right location to cheer him up.
Ok, so here’s my latest favorite phlox. It’s ‘Blue Spot’, a newer introduction which for some reason I can’t seem to find any information on just now. For some reason 2008 introduction by way of a Connecticut nursery comes to mind, but I’ll likely have to update that when I figure it out. This plant came to my garden last fall by way of Perennial Pleasures Nursery, a Vermont nursery which has the best phlox offerings I’ve seen, and fortunately also does mailorder!
My plant still needs some growing to do, but in spite of multiple woodchuck grazings, it’s managed to put up a few flower stalks. I love the bluish swirls and I think it gets this pattern from another favorite, ‘Blushing Shortwood’ which may or may not be a parent (again… top of my head).
I look forward to seeing this one clump up and hopefully avoid another run-in with the local wildlife. So far my theory of letting weeds grow up around it to hide it from attack has been working, but that has its downsides as well… we will see, just like you will likely see plenty more phlox photos as the season rolls on. We still have all of July and August you know!
Have a great weekend, and a happy and safe Fourth of July.
Picking only two plants to grow would be a brutal world indeed! Your Blue Spot is very pretty! For some reason I’ve never grown tall phlox, maybe because I heard somewhere it tended to get mildew. Thus it got associated with ‘fussy plants’ in my mind, despite the fact it seems to be a cottage garden staple. They are very pretty, though!
I’m lucky in that they usually don’t get much mildew here, I think we have very good air circulation which must help. But they don’t like the dry soil and they don’t like going hungry. They’re one of the few perennials which get treated to extra fertilizer and plenty of water, even though most everything else is on its own.
Some are more trouble than others though. I try to get rid of the troublesome ones 🙂
Your phlox look great and I like that verbena in the background.
The verbena is such a workhorse all summer. It really fills in when the heat and drought start taking their toll.
Vegetables, schmetztables! Let the phlox take over! Your ‘Blue Spot’ is lovely, for sure. I do so love phlox, and I do so wish I could grow it! Once again, I’m left to say, “*^&%*(&*!!* woodchucks! (and deer)” That being said, I am actually giving one a try in the perennial corner of the Terrace Garden. (a ‘Franz Schubert’, from Santa Rosa) Someone has indeed grazed it, but I sprayed lots of stinky repellent stuff on it, and it seems to be coming back unbothered. We’ll hope for the best! Looking forward to an onslaught of phlox posts from you this summer!
Hmmmm. Franz Schubert is one of the few which have been giving me trouble…. but I moved it to a new spot this spring and it looks much better!
I’m afraid if things keep getting more and more wildlife friendly around here there might need to be a deer fence around these. Ugh that will be a pain, but I don’t think I could deal with a late night phlox beheading just as they were coming into bloom. (I’ve already lost a few this year…)
‘Blue Spot’ had me at “swirls on white”, LOL
I’m a sucker for blue flowers, and when it comes to splashes, swirls and bicolors, well… as the saying goes, “Resistance is futile”. 😉
haha, I’m like that with yellow foliage. I’d probably buy a yellow crabgrass if I saw it!
Phlox do well here. I don’t have many named varieties. Most are just semi-reverted half-breeds but they have wonderful fragrance. They are great in a vase. You always associate mildew with moisture, but I think phlox get mildew when they get dry and stressed out. I think of them as a great “farm wife plant”, the kind of plant that just needs a shovelful of manure at the beginning of the season and can take care of itself. Assuming the rains fall as they should.
I think you’re absolutely right. I frequently water in the evenings and the plants stand there soaking wet all night and don’t have a problem. It’s when things get dry and the humidity goes up that I start to see spots. two years ago was the first time I had any problems, but as per my usual mode of attack I did nothing and it didn’t come back the next year.
My aunt used to have a large clump outside the backdoor of their 200 yr old Maine farmhouse. It was always so fragrant in the summer air and I think it’s those memories that make the plant special to me.
I hope that ‘Blue Spot’ exceeds all your expectations. Looking forward to more pics of Phlox as the summer rolls on. I have a white Phlox, ‘David’, which I thought I dug up and gave away but it had other ideas. Also some Woodland Phlox, which flowers nicely in spring if it hasn’t been eaten by rabbits.
For some reason the rabbits are brutal on my other phlox plants yet leave the tall garden phlox alone. Who knows.
I’ve had that where a phlox is dug and moved, yet the root sprouts end up doing better than the original plant. It can get confusing when things are coming up all over!
We are sharing the blooms and love of phlox paniculata. Yours are lovely.
Thanks John. I hope they hold up as well over the years as yours have.