Thursday, June 16, 2011

Flocks and flocks of phox

Few spectacles enchant me more each spring than the masses of creeping phlox that carpet the steppe, prairie, meadows and tundra of the West. Everyone knows the Eastern phloxes--the ones sold at every garden center. There are a half dozen species (or less) found east of the Mississippi, and these are pretty well known in garden centers and are certainly revered among rock gardeners. The dozens and dozens of species of Western microphloxes are another matter: they are wonderfully treated in a brand new monograph by Jim Locklear (do check out the hyperlink if you don't know this modern classic)...

But I have a quibble with this book: Jim lumps this luscious phlox shown above (and below) with the straggly Phlox longifolia found universally in the west. I don't deny they are related (after all, Twiggy and Dolly Parton could well be cousins). But for gardeners, Phlox grayi is THE Western phlox. These pictures were taken on the green roof (for Heaven's sake) at Denver Botanic Gardens new Children's garden. There are vast sweeps of the phlox that have been blooming for the better part of the last two months. And the variation is spellbinding.

I first obtained this phlox from Sonia Lowzow Collins, a wonderful gardener who lived in Showlow Arizona. My plants thrived a few years over twenty years ago and finally perished. I was thrilled when Allan Bradshaw recollected seed of this plant, and from his seed Laporte Avenue Nursery produced abundant plants, which found their way onto the Children's Garden last fall: these have thrived and bloomed prodigiously.

Among them are a few particularly stunning selections, like the one below...

A xeric phlox, with that sort of color, that blooms for months in the spring and reblooms in late summer: I don't know about you, but that sounds like a winner to me.

If you get by the Gardens in the next few weeks, you will see what I mean. Do make sure to check out the Children's Garden: it's not just for tykes. It's full of gorgeous rarities not found elsewhere at DBG (or at any other public garden in the world)...

Aaaah. What wonderful times these are!

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