Phantastic Flox

I’ll try not to go on too long.  Phlox paniculata is one of my favorite flowers and it’s blooming now, and although my garden doesn’t give the best conditions for amazing phlox (rich soil, even moisture, maybe some afternoon shade) it gives me good enough phlox.  Phlox (along with snowdrops and cyclamen)  have always been among my favorites, and now that I have the room I might as well indulge myself.  Here are a couple that are making me happy right now 🙂

phlox nicky and laura

From the left it’s ‘Laura’, darker ‘Nicky’, and random pink and white seedlings.

I will grow just about any phlox I can get my hands on but should really start to show a little self control…. or not.  I love working in the vegetable patch when the breeze has that nice spicy phlox perfume on it.  The hummingbirds and butterflies seem to appreciate it too.

phlox seedling

This white phlox seedling is one of my favorites, nothing really special, but it’s so reliable. The pink is also a seedling and I like the color but it doesn’t bloom as long as some of the others. I keep it mostly for the odd darker centered leaves… which look slightly diseased when I think on it, but it’s all mine so it’s special.

I know all the books say to deadhead and rip out stray seedlings which sprout since they will overrun your better named phlox, but I’m a little funny about just accepting what people tell me…. plus I’m curious to see if they’ll really all turn out as ugly as the books say (I do still read books btw).  Last year this one was a little congested and washed out,  I almost tossed it and now I’m glad I didn’t.  The cooler weather this summer has brought out some nicer color, and a leaner diet has left it with neater flower heads and I’m again seeing some of the qualities that made me single it out in the first place.  I love the height too, it’s close to five feet.

tall garden phlox

No-name phlox, still nice with it’s white centers and a color that just about matches the verbena bonariensis behind it.

Nearly all my phlox look a little sickly due to a dry spring and summer which really brought on the spider mites.  Spraying them off with the water hose and a little fertilizer seems to have discouraged the mites but the damage remains in the form of yellowed and spotty leaves.  Strangely enough my variegated ‘Nora Leigh’ has the nicest leaves of all, which surprises me since variegated plants are always supposed to be a little weaker compared to the regular version.

phlox nora leigh

Green grass would be a nicer backdrop for the foliage of ‘Nora Leigh’ but I guess the neighboring fig leaves will have to do.

I’ve been obsessing a bit on the darker colored varieties.  ‘Starfire’ is supposed to be especially bright and I think that’s what this is.  I don’t know how the mite damaged leaves can support all the bloom it has but they do and I’m glad for it.

phlox paniculata seedlings

‘Starfire’ (maybe?) is definitely bright and probably shouldn’t be right next to white, but it happens. I’m thinking next year it deserves an extra serving of compost for this wonderful performance in the face of adversity.

I’ve been adding new ones here and there.  This spring I ordered a nice batch from Perennial Pleasures up in Vermont and was generally pleased with the plants I received.  One died a few days after I got it, but I didn’t even bother complaining since I was so happy to have finally found a place which has such an awesome selection of phlox online.  Hmmm, I wonder if another order this fall would be too soon 🙂

phlox blue paradise

Phlox ‘blue paradise’ is a new one and it’s of the kind that change their color throughout the day. Cool mornings give a rich blue shade which fades to violet as the day heats up.

My local nursery is pretty good about having a few new phlox each year so they tend to follow me home whenever I make a visit.  Here’s ‘Blushing Shortwood’ which joined me last summer… and then spent most of the year sitting in its pot on the driveway.  I’m glad to see it hasn’t held this against me.

phlox blushing shortwood

Phlox ‘blushing shortwood’ with it’s nicely bicolored blooms. The pink seems to fade as the thermometer rises but it’s still a nice flower.

I have a few others but don’t want to overdo it so I’ll stop here.  There’s always next year to do it again, and maybe by then I will have turned the entire tropical garden into a phlox field.  Now there’s an idea 🙂

Have a great week!

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 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 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 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… 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.