Phlox paniculata

The garden in late summer is for the most part a place of hot colours and spicy smells, with a great many yellow composite flowers in their prime. But the lucky gardener who has a shady bed o rich, moist soil can grow Phlox paniculata, plants with the freshness of spring and a soft, sweet scent. The species, of North American origin, is purple, and many fine varieties have been developed from it in all shades of violet, red, pink and white, of which the pastel colours with a dark eye are particularly charming. All are hardy and perennial.

The flowers of phlox are much like primroses in form, and grow in large, crowded clusters at the top of leafy stalks with an average height of 30 inches (75 cm). They need masses of water and a lightly shaded position will keep moisture in the soil and will prolong the flowering season. They are lime-tolerant, but chalky soils are too dry for them. They look perfect by a stream, and are massed with other water-loving plants in the Stream Garden at Hidcote Manor; if grown in a border they need mounds of good foliage in front to hide their dowdy stalks. Astrantia maxima, with little umbels of rose-pink flowers over a long summer season, and elegant dissected leaves, would be an ideal companion.

Plant phlox in groups of at least five plants 2 feet (60 cm) apart in spring. When they have grown a few inches, give them a generous mulch of manure or compost, and thin the shoots of large, old plants to get flowers of the best quality.

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