Saturday, April 16, 2011

Fall in Love with Phlox

Other than daffodils, this is the only Spring wildflower I remember from my days as a little kid romping through the wooded hillside (much like Hankers here!) in my hillside backyard on a dirt road in West Virginia.

Two days ago we were morel undisclosed location...where I took this picture. I couldn't remember the last time I saw this wonderful flower in such profusion.
Known as Wild Blue Phlox, or Wild Sweet William, this Spring wildflower is native to America. The stem of wild blue phlox sends up branches between 8-18 in inches. Loose, flat clusters of fragrant, lavender/bluish 5-petaled flowers appear at the top of the stem. You can't mistake it...but I only wish the fragrance was as easy to describe! If you're a city person, the only way I can describe it is to say wild blue phlox eminates the lightest perfume, just strong enough that you know you're not imagining it. When you lean over the flower you'll think, "Oh, here's where it comes from!" Not surprisingly, butterflies, like the tiger swallowtail also find this flower appealing. In early Spring, from mid-April to perhaps mid-May, you'll see them leisurely floating from bunch to bunch - seeming content that there's plenty to go around!

Although Wild Blue Phlox grow abundantly in the right habitat, this is not a Spring wildflower that you will grow just anywhere. No, this little flower is just a bit too picky (as beautiful things can be sometimes). It prefers humus-rich soil with dappled shade, and will not bloom in dry conditions.

Because this is a gardening blog, I am happy to add, you can include phlox in your own Spring flower garden. Just remember, this is a native plant, so it's best not to pick it or dig it, especially if you are in a state or federally operated land management area. (To be honest, I don't know that transplanting would even work).

Instead, buy a cultivated variety at your neighborhood nursery or even Lowes. There are all kinds of varieties to consider, from creeping magenta phlox that forms a bright carpet on your hillside, to the kind I picked up today at Lowes ($7.49!) - a blue phlox that will grow up to 2 feet, and that looks mostly like (and smells exactly like) the wild variety! When I plant it, the location will be somewhere I can walk by or sit by the fragrant blooms, but I will also have to do my best to imitate its natural habitat. (Lots of compost, lots of water, morning sun). As a perennial, these delicate blue flowers will bloom in the garden year after year and will keep my butterflies happy while they wait for the hardier, warm-colored flowers of summer!

No comments:

Post a Comment