Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fragrant Summer Clouds

A Beautiful Pinwheel Variety
Soft, Fragrant Blooms
Mount Fuji in it's Snowy Whitness

An Old Garden Variety...Any Guesses??
Phlox "Blue Paradise"
A Recent Seedling, I'll Take Cuttings...
Phlox "Lava" from the hardware store...
Lovely and Tagless, maybe if I dug around a bit...( click any image to enlarge)

When I was little, we had a large border of Phlox ,(Phlox paniculata) that was composed mostly of hybrid plants long gone to seed. This sounds like a minor garden tragedy, but the muddy lavenders and pinks had their own special aura. We had what I would now describe as a strolling garden, a garden meant to be walked through and "take the scents and views". We did have named hybrid Phlox, Mount Fuji was always at attention in the border, looking like thunder heads forming before your eyes.

I've always cut flowers for the house, even when very young. Phlox seemed to be the prime summer blossom to cut, and there were so many...it never took away from the display! I have many memories of walking in that garden at night, a bright sky illuminating the still scene. You could find the phlox just from the drifts of powdery sweetness floating in the air. I've always had Phlox in my gardens, not just for memories sake, but for the quintessential feeling of Summer that a garden with Phlox is. So many of our beloved garden stalwarts are from Asia, thank you Asia!, but Phlox paniculata is child of our land's loins and we should cherish them, even if they are considered common by some.

Phlox are easy garden plants. They will take some afternoon shade, but the healthiest clumps are grown in full Sunlight. A moisture retentive soil with a good amount of organic matter is all they need, an established plant can take some drought, but the wear and tear will show a bit. The biggest complaint that I hear about garden Phlox is their propensity to harbor mildew. This can easily happen here in the Midwest if the plants are crowded or need dividing. I always take pieces of the mother plant in the Spring when the growth is a few inches high on the clump. They lift easily at that time , and they will hardly skip a beat.A fresh location and an open situation will usually reduce any mildew that might occur. Some people thin out the weaker emerging stalks, I would rather just remove a outer section and fill the excavated area with compost and soil. Water this division, and use a compostable mulch to keep the ground evenly moist while the offset is setting roots. Once the big initial floral show is over, remove the seed heads, and you will be rewarded by a second flush of bloom....I usually have a few in re bloom going into Fall. At Hiddefield farm, secondary Phlox blooms are probably one of the last plants that the migratory Hummingbirds get to feed on as they make their was South.