Phlox

For myriad problem spots in yard and garden, phlox has got you covered.

 

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Used tastefully, however, creeping phlox is wonderful as carpeting or an area rug in the early-summer garden. It also makes a charming tumbled edging for the border, or a spreading runner in the rock garden. Tucked into a cranny of a stone wall, it takes hold easily and spills down prettily. My favorite varieties are a dainty apple-blossom pink, a soft blue that gives a bonus of especially rich green foliage, and a pure white that is so clean and shining, it even makes bright red or magenta look good in contrast. There’s also a pretty warm pink and a muted lavender. All will blossom in full sun only, and demand heavy shearing after bloom to keep from becoming a scraggly mat.

We’re also indebted to Bartram for another delightful phlox species, phlox divaricata. That blooms very early, in April and the beginning of May. I’ve read that it makes a charming companion to species tulips. Maybe so, but not for me. My species tulips start even earlier—the light red Fritz Kreisler was in bloom March 30 and the multiflowered yellow Tarda by mid-April. They not only beat out phlox divaricata but also require full sun, whereas my phlox divaricata like light to heavy shade. I wish I could put them together—the lavender-blue of the phlox would make a lovely foil for the tulips. Best I can do at this point is to have them nearby.

Divaricata gets about 15 inches tall, has small broad leaves and masses of airy flowers. It naturalizes easily and will spread into graceful drifts. The leaves virtually disappear a couple of weeks after bloom, so you can plant other things nearby. Ferns are especially nice and in keeping with the natural feeling of divaricata. A white divaricata form (available at some nurseries) is very pretty too, but has not been as fast a spreader for me as the blue. In a wildflower garden or a woodland of deciduous trees—or an informal border—divaricata is a charmer. Thank you, John Bartram.

In June at the spectacular Winterthur Gardens in Delaware, I saw a pure pink phlox that looked remarkably like divaricata but was taller and had florets twice the size. I found it described in the catalog as “Ozark Phlox (Phlox pilosa var. ozarkana)”—propagated by Winterthur Gardens and, oh, so beautiful. It’s said to be evergreen, to spread by underground stems and thus to make a good ground cover. Delaware is warmer than Danbury, but since this hybrid is supposed to be hardy in zone 5, I’m giving it a try. Full sun and good drainage are required—plus, in Danbury, it will need heavy winter protection, I’d say.

Phlox

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