Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Summer Phlox at the Dixon Gardens

Last Sunday afternoon, I attended a presentation on phlox at the Dixon Gardens by James Locklear, Director of Conservation at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, Nebraska, and author of Phlox: A Natural History and Conservation Guide. After a short tour of the phlox in the Dixon's cutting garden (it was way too hot to spend much time in the sun in the middle of the afternoon!), he gave a very interesting talk on the history of phlox and the large number of species that grow across the United States.

I have a few varieties of phlox in my garden. My favorite is the spring blooming creeping phlox 'Drummond's Pink' (Phlox subulata 'Drummond's Pink'). I like the deep pink bloom on this variety but was particularly drawn to its form when not in bloom. It forms a tight, deep green mass, with needle-like foliage that is very attractive, especially when sprawling over rocks. Here it is this spring planted near our water feature. The little green mass not in bloom is a creeping juniper. The foliage of this is juniper very similar to the phlox.

Phlox subulata 'Drummond's Pink'

I also bought a cultivar of summer phlox last year that is suppose to do well in our heat and humidity (Phlox paniculata 'David').  This year, 'David', a white phlox, has been joined by a pink phlox I do not remember planting. This may be a 'David' offspring, as I've read that hybrid phlox, when allowed to go to seed, often reproduce plants different from the parent.

I like summer phlox but you know how they often get: droopy, tired-looking leaves, usually with powdery mildew. We think of them as sun-loving plants, but our area is at the edge of their zone (some varieties say zone up to 7; others zone 8), and they struggle with our summer heat. Even the ones at the Dixon struggled this year. Suzy Askew, Education and Volunteer coordinator at the Dixon, pointed out to us that their best looking phlox were the ones growing at the edge of the shade. My theory is that phlox perform best in an area with morning sun and shade during the hottest part of the day. Mine are sited in a mostly shaded spot and they bloom but don't perform up to their potential.

If you are interesting in learning more about phlox and how to grow them, you might be interested in attending the munch and learn at the Dixon on Wednesday, August 5.  Phlox and echinacea plants will also be available for sale. Click here for more information.

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