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.