The very first gardening book I ever read was a birthday gift from my husband, after we had purchased our first house, in Pennsylvania. It was a thrilling time, my very own dirt! The year was 1976. The book was by Richard C. Davids, former editor of Better Homes and Gardens and Farm Journal. It was my bible. It still rests on the bookshelves with other treasured tomes.
This book was always taken on plant buying forays, for I knew nothing at all about anything garden-wise, except that I wanted a pretty garden with lots of flowers. The names, latin or common, were meaningless to me, except roses, the first things bought and planted. In the perennial section, flowers that come back every year, what a miracle!, was the listing for Phlox, (Latin names were not included in this book). There is a warning about keeping the nice varieties deadheaded or they will all revert back to the *degenerate offspring* of the wild mauve color. He says, “The plants you buy don’t change color-only an act of God or atomic radiation will do that-but if you allow flowers to set seeds, those seeds produce plants that revert to a more primitive color, usually magenta. The primitive types are more vigorous too, and without your knowing it, they crowd out their parents.”
Faithful readers, (thanks and virtual kisses to you all!), will know that there is one thing that riles up the hackles at the Fairegarden like nothing else, it is the snobbery against Nature’s Own Colors. These prejudices existed and were readily excepted by the home gardening masses like sheep for many years. Baa baa. Thank goodness, present day has seen a growing awareness and appreciation for the wild species of most things, for the very reason of their being more vigorous and needing less water and maintenance.
The current garden is the first place where this plant has been allowed to grow, mostly because of the advice from that long ago book. It was one of scores of passalongs from my neighbor when the garden was first planted after being cleared and terraced by the backhoe. I didn’t really want it, to be honest, and stuck the large clump in a back corner, behind the row of Hemlocks. It was completely forgotten until the next fall, when the mauve flowers stood tall and bright against the silver chain link fence. It wasn’t half bad, was the thinking. It bloomed at a time, July into fall, when there was an appalling lack of color and flowers and had received no water or pampering in any way. It was moved to the Daylily Hill, to offer interest after the Hemerocallis were finished.
There is a problem, for some gardeners in hot and humid climates like ours, of mildew on the tall Phlox, among others. My brilliant solution to that is to not look at it. Besides, having a mixed planting that includes grasses and more healthy looking foliage mixed in helps camouflage any unsightly acts of nature. The garden here is mostly viewed from afar, from the deck and through the glass sliders. Globs of magenta mixed with yellows, oranges and whites look just fine to these eyes. Sometimes it is best to relax the white-knuckle grip of control, especially in the garden, to maximize health and happiness.
Some plant facts:
Native Perennial Phlox paniculata is a sun loving plant occurring in rich or rocky open woods from Maine to South Dakota and Manitoba, south to Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. Zones 4-8, (Polemoniaceae family) Large heads of fragrant magenta flowers can grow 8 in. across. They are very showy in the landscape when grown in moist soil. The flowers attract butterflies, bees and hummingbirds and are good cut flowers.
Grow in full sun to part shade in moist soil. Plant in an area with plenty of ventilation to prevent mildew. (We have no moist soil and it grows just fine.) (See above about the mildew).
Perennial border, native garden, cut flower garden, butterfly garden.
36 to 48 inches
24 to inches
USDA Hardiness Zone:
4 – 8
This is a plant portrait of a native wildflower to join in with Gail of Clay and Limestone’s Wildflower Wednesday. Visit her site to check out others and/or add your own post to the Mister Linky magic.