“The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day.
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You’re one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
a cloud come over the sunlit arch,
And wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you’re two months back in the middle of March.”
I had thought by the end of April, I would have more native plants blooming, but this year has been one long, cold, snowy, wet year for the garden. The garden is at least 2 weeks behind last year so the only thing blooming are the bulbs. Lots and lots of beautiful blooms, but I am anxious to see my native plants. Of course they know the score around here and they are reluctant to show their pretty little heads until it really warms up. After all they are native you know. So for this Wildflower Wednesday at Clay and Limestone, I thought I would profile a beautiful native that I love in my garden, phlox. What self-respecting cottage gardener wouldn’t have oodles of phlox in all sizes and shapes…I really can’t get enough of phlox. And it has added value because it is a native plant.
I love the wildflower phlox divaricata (pictured above). A delicate small lilac colored flower arriving in late April, early May. It enjoys a moist setting in part shade to shade which is great for my spring garden.
Next up is the creeping phlox. The endless spray of flowers these plants produce is stunning. I love how they continue to grow down a hill or along a border and fill in or spill over a wall. The moss-like foliage is almost unseen because of the prolific flowers. There are many colors to choose from. I think I have them all. If you are looking for a great native spring ground cover that is tolerant of many conditions, you can’t go wrong with creeping phlox, phlox subulata. Creeping phlox will tolerate some drought and salt if planted by a roadside, and will even grow in moist soils. I have it growing all over the garden so I am greeted with a ground full of color all spring wherever I look. An added bonus is that the foliage stays green all through the seasons, and it is easy to cut off bits and plant them into the garden where they root right in.
Lastly is the stunning phlox paniculata or summer phlox. As you can see from the many pictures I love these phlox too. They grow 3-4 feet high and have mounds of flowers. They will create drifts of stunning blooms for 2-3 months if given the right conditions of sun and moist soil. Oh and did I mention the scent. Phlox gives off a lovely perfume as well.
These varieties are in my front very sunny garden interplanted with echinacea and lilies. They love the sun and do all right in the drier conditions there. But to establish them I had to make sure they were well watered the first year. They do not take over, but fill right in to create a beautiful display of color.
I have phlox planted in the side and back gardens where there is sun and moist soil. Some are in shadier conditions and do just great. The one thing that you have to remember is phlox is prone to powdery mildew. Here in central NY state we get wet, humid, hot summers so my phlox foliage sometimes will succumb to the mildew, but the flowers are not affected. And if you plant the phlox in close with other plants it may get mildew faster due to the air not circulating as well. I have never found powdery mildew to come back year after year if the conditions are not right. I do cut the plants back in the fall and dispose of them to be safe though. There are many new cultivars that are resistant to powdery mildew so look for those.
Wildlife is also drawn to phlox. Butterflies and hummingbirds will be found frequenting the phlox which is another reason I have it all over the gardens. I stood in my white garden last year while 4 hummingbirds went from phlox to phlox (of course it was ‘David’ since it was a white garden).
In the Language of Flowers: Phlox means “united hearts” and is a flower associated with marriage. No wonder it has been a popular flower for over a hundred years. It was used in Victorian England in tussie-mussies, the small posies carried by ladies which are what many brides carry today.
It is also Fertilizer Friday at Tootsie Time this week…so go visit and see what is blooming all over the globe this Friday!!