Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Practically Perfect Pinkish Phlox for Summer



The return of a garden

Summer phlox was once a stalwart plant in my garden...nothing phased it. It grew in semi-shade, in deep shade and full sun. It always bloomed and spread its progeny delightfully everywhere; making a very large flowering presence during July and August. Butterflies flocked to him...especially swallowtails, Painted Lady, fritillary, skipper and sulphur butterflies during the day and Hummingbird, Sphinx and and Hawkmoths at night. They didn't mind that the phlox was just a plain old unnamed species phlox...a rather pinkish/purple colored flower. Neither did I. It was the quintessential Clay and Limestone summer plant.

But several years ago it was decimated by phlox bug. The bug eradication program meant a thorough removal of all phlox debris each fall...stalks and stems went into the trash. It's esential to do this one step each fall. Then in the spring I began the daily monitoring for signs of the orange bug.

Early this spring it looked clear. No sign of the bug and no plant damage...I was so excited and said such on a post. But somehow, I missed the larva stage and in a matter of a few weeks they were back. Even with spraying and smooshing the little pest, it seemed pretty certain that there wouldn't be any bloom this year. I accepted that and planted more coneflower and monarda.
Both bee and butterfly food sources.

But flowers have a way of surprising gardeners

Early Saturday morning I went down the driveway to have another look at the Monarda "Marshall's Delight". Hovering around the coneflower and liatris was a gorgeous Black Swallowtail Butterfly.

What a delight to see this butterfly. I followed it flitting to and fro, stopping at this coneflower and that Verbena while slowly moving toward the front shade gardens. Then he stopped and landed on a summer phlox...all decked out in bloom! It was the oddest feeling and while looking at the Swallowtail, I heard myself say... "Well, there you are, right where you're supposed to be." The Swallowtails were home and so was the phlox.



I wish I had a photo of the Swallowtail on the phlox, but I didn't have a camera with me....sigh! But here is a photo from Wikipedia of a Black Swallowtail.



In case you're wondering how I missed the buds? It's not that I didn't see the buds, but with all the damage on the leaves it seemed impossible that they would have any energy to bloom! (photos enlarge).



More phlox...you can see the damage on the leaves! But who cares, when you have this delightful pretty in pink flower!


This is the flower you get after letting a plant go to seed year after year. I inherited these lovelies from the former owner. Maybe they were named varieties at one time, but by the time we arrived... who knows. I let some reseed every year.
There had always been summer phlox at Clay and Limestone and now it seems it will be here again.

Gail
The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.
Rabindranath Tagore


32 comments:

  1. Good morning Gail, so delightful that your nose on the butterfly trail led to this discovery. I have that old phlox also, from neighbors M and M, it is a stalwart performer. If the bug you name is here, I wouldn't know it, for every leaf of every plant has some sort of damage. That is just the way of it. Right now the large grasshoppers are eating whole daylily buds, that is really getting my goat.

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  2. It's amazing how much damage plants can take and still bloom, isn't it?

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  3. What a delightful story! I can just see you following the butterfly around (wishing you had your camera!); it's as if he wanted to show you the phlox.
    I'm glad the phlox bug didn't destroy such pretty flowers.

    By the way, I left a comment on your last Tuesday's post just yesterday. I don't know how I missed that--must have been the day I couldn't get on the computer.

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  4. Gail, your pictures are making me sad that I ripped out my magenta Phlox. It was so invasive in the rose bed where I'd planted it that I felt I had no other option. Given its survival instincts, perhaps it's just biding its time and will surprise me like yours did. In the meantime, I'll make do with your pictures!

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  5. Frances,

    I have noticed even more buggy holes than usual...this particular blight it pretty obvious if it is out of control...as mine got...at first I thought it was mildew and it just went from bad to horrible! It's a flying orange bug that begs to be squished!

    I do love this phlox...it isn't a big old mop head of blooms like 'David' but in this garden this phlox works!

    We have little grasshopper that are chewing on the petals of daylilies...don't tell me they are going to grow up into BIG ones! It must be the milder winters and dry summers...don't you think of grasshoppers and prairies?

    Gail

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  6. Rurality,

    Plants are incredibly amazing and gardening is a wonderful metaphor for healing. Don't you think?

    Gail

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  7. Rose,

    It was so like that...after my epiphany I did run into the house for a camera but the little guy/gal was gone when I came back! I kept meaning to take the camera out when I gardened, but after dropping my cell phone under a plant and having to call the number to find it...was enough of a learning experience for me. Now I make a photo date with the garden.

    I read your comment to the awards post....thank you!

    Gail

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  8. cindy,

    I have a lot of space...if you garden on a smaller lot...you have to be picky! If a plant crowds a more valued plant...you have to be picky. It's just the way it is! Hard though...choices are often between two things you like!

    Gail

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  9. So glad you have it! I am always envious of gardeners who grow phlox well as I have a hard time with it in my garden. Yours if pretty!

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  10. Tina,

    What do you mean you have a hard time with it? Give me more detail so I can get to the meat of the issue! We can gnaw away at this...you must have phlox...I have the PPPP for you! But summer phlox, you must have some!

    I would give you some of it but fear the orange bug would follow it!

    Gail

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  11. Hi Gail. I have lots of phlox just added some new. Hadn't heard of the pest insect that destroys them. Thanks for the tip. I will be more vigilant.
    Marnie

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  12. marnie,

    Check out the link to see what the bug looks like! I am glad it isn't in your garden. I don't know what brought it into mine! The phlox plant bug passes the winter in the egg stage in dead phlox stems, so if your practicing good garden clean up each fall that is probably working.

    gail

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  13. Hi Gail, are you saying this is a different form than David? Mine do get the big ball head, but I will be looking for an orange bug in their midst. We had huge grasshoppers in Oklahoma, my mother used to tell me if you got to close they would spit tobacco on you! But we could catch them by the hind legs if we snuck up behind them. Why we would want to do that, I cannot fathom. Ours here start small and can get large and do so much damage. Harsh insecticides are the only thing that will kill them, and they eat everything, not picky. I think the rains have brought them out, more lush greenery to chew.

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  14. Beautiful Blooms! I dont like bad bugs! I try to refrain myself from using pesticides in the garden. I fear I will harm the butterflies, bees or other good pollinators. I use the squash method but some times, you just cannot spot all the bad bugs... arggggg.

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  15. I have a white phlox that's just getting ready to bloom--I think it's "David," but I can't find the tag (I'm keeping better roecords now!) I WISH mine were invasive--I've been coaxing it along for several years, and it's finally starting to establish itself since I moved it to the back. It's in very light shade, behind some Shasta daisies--I hope I get some new plants next year! Good luck with the bugs--it's so hard to control the bad ones when you don't want to hurt the good ones.

    Happy gardening, Cosmo

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  16. So glad your Phlox has bloomed as I LOVE all Phlox. I think they are my next to favorite flower. I used to have them and oh boy did the deer ever love the flower as much as I did. I sadly, do not have any now.

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  17. Frannces,

    Both are monarda didyma but I meant that David seems to have a bigger flower head then these wildlings. But that is only from nursery photos...I dug David up and threw him out because he was the worse hit!

    We did stuff like that when we were kids. We used the big grasshoppers as bait to fish when we visited friend's farm!

    Not now will you catch me catching a grasshopper but I will squash bugs who are squishable!

    gail

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  18. skeeter,

    You are so right on...the little orange guys run under the leaves and it is often impossible to spot them or squish them...no pesticides here either!


    gail

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  19. Cosmo,

    That does sound like David...what I have read is that often when a phlox is allowed to go to seed it doesn't breed true...so the offspring might be another color entirely...often the magenta that folks speak of so derisively but that I like...Then subsequent generations will be variations on a pink them, not necessarily magenta! I guess that means don't dead head until you put your bed to bed for the winter.


    gail

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  20. jean,

    There is a lot to admire about them...they smell sweet, come in lovely colors and attract butterflies and bees. You have excellent taste!

    Don't you think it's too bad that cut flowers only come in exotic hothouse varieties..I have to go to the Farmers' Markets to get zinnias, cosmos and sunflowers. This morning they were selling mums that had been died green, pink and orange...did I miss an unusual holiday?

    Gail

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  21. That is funny Gail. Maybe they are trying to make a new holiday!!
    I always started my zinnias, cocmos and sunflowers from seed straight in the ground. Even in our short growing season they have enough time to flower. This year for the first time ever I started cosmos in the house and the were in bloom before I got them in the ground so I just enjoyed them in the house. Shame on me!

    I think the dyed flowers are pretty but the seem to fade quicker and really look ratty then. Oh well what is one to do? They are out to make a quick buck.

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  22. I too had many butterflies with no camera in hand this weekend. A summer without phlox would be no summer at all so I am happy to see that they are coming back.

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  23. Jean,

    Enjoy your flowers wherever they bloom! Mine are pokey...the zinnias don't seem to want to bloom and I have to admit...I never saw a cosmos except the sulphurs that I got in Texas!

    Gail

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  24. Layanees,

    It has felt like that...no summer and since they arrived! I have more butterflies. With the monarda and the phlox I have very happy butterflies.

    The camera! it's never where you need it to be! We got our son a wrist camera...it straps to his wrist and is perfect for biking or paddling!

    He wants to put it on the dog to see what he does all day!

    maybe we ought to get them for gardening!

    gail

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  25. Hi Gail,

    Your summer phlox are lovely. And beautiful flowers. What a magnificent color surrounded by such greenery! Just lovely. Very summery.

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  26. dp,

    Sometimes it seems like a sea of green! But thank you...how was the beach or are you still there?

    Gail

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  27. We ran to Lowes today for Crawl Space vents to keep a creapy crawly out from under the house and I saw Phlox in their garden center! I was soooo tempted to pick some up after your post but with this drought, it is all I can do to keep the stuff watered in the ground now! I wanted one so badly but came home empty handed instead...

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  28. skeeter,

    I know how you feel and then I buy it anyway and put it over in the holding area where it it easier to water and plant it in the fall. I am soooooo bad! I usually don't plant anything after June but sometimes I do and it means dragging the hose around!

    You were a good girl!

    Gail

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  29. Hi Gail,
    I've never heard of that phlox bug, but then, the only phlox we have is some of the magenta a friend gave us a few years ago, and it's clearly on a conquest mission in the back corner in the back (with the purple and red Monarda), so I think we're going to have to get ruthless with it this year. I'd rather just let it bloom first, then pull it up, but it does need dealt with at some point.

    As for grasshoppers... absolutely loathe them! They're such indiscriminate punks and can really do major damage. I haven't seen any yet this year, and last year we didn't have as many, due I think to the fact that we now have Praying Mantises living in the garden, and I think they helped keep them under control. And the Mantises are infinitely more interesting! Do you ever see any in your gardens?

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  30. IVG,

    You don't want to let the monarda and phlox duke it out! Who would you put your money on?

    Mantis...I see them on the soffit and fascia each fall so they must be here!
    ...imagine how bad it could look if they weren't here! So far, excepting the phlox bug, I've been pretty lucky.
    I have decided that since rose bushes are a perfect lure for japanese beetles that I will leave this one under performing guy for the beetles to eat instead of some other delicious plant!

    Gail

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  31. We share some favorites Gail. Although I don't have PPPP (I must remedy that,) I've always grown at least one variety of phlox. Phlox was one of the first perennials I ever grew, a pass along from a lovely elderly gardening neighbor who generously shared so many of her plants with me. Pink Phlox always remind me of her and her generosity.

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  32. gardengirl,

    Pass along plants are the best, usually from a friend or family member and always bringing good memories along with their bloom.
    PPPP was a gift from a friend....she introduced me to the idea of having a garden in my front yard! Thank you Sarah!

    I am glad you have phlox to remind you of a friend and for all the lovely creatures it beings into your garden!

    Gail

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Let us be grateful to people who make us happy;
they are the charming gardeners
who make our souls blossom.


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