Saturday, December 15, 2012

Going with the Phlomis...

I realize this looks suspiciousliy like Lamb's ears--and the Phlomis are distantly related, it's true--but these fluffy, very touchable leaves are one of the innumerable "Jerusalem sages" that have barely entered cultivation, or have yet to do so...the Mediterranean is chockablock full of Phlomis--and strangely few are out there. This is one that Dan and I collected half way up the Sierra Nevada above Granada, little suspecting it would have such lovely, burnt orange flowers...

Which I have yet to photograph properly. I suspect if I take the time and photograph this in just the right light, it will get the notoriety it deserves. Dan has propagated dozens of plants which now cover a wide swath of the Watersmart garden, producing buckets of seed. Now if it would only do this in MY garden!

Here is yet another execrable picture of a fabulous plant, in this case Phlomis lychnitis--we managed to get only a little pinch of this at a high elevation on Sierra Mágina, a magical mountain in Andalucia. I shall never forget the day or the plants there: practically the whole mountain for miles was wall to wall Phlomis lychnitis--all with seedpods sticking up, and ALL were empty, except for one which had a few flaky black seed. I think only one germinated. and this one has persisted at DBG, and despite Mike Bone growing dozens of seedlings a few years ago from our home grown seed, it is still not being sold by K-Mart (in fact, I think we still just have one or two measley plants). It is really not so easy to introduce plants, no matter what the Plant Nazis say!

Here's a closeup of a dwarf Phlomis that Marcia Tatroe grows to perfection. Alas, it never produces seed (she says: I secretly think she's hoarding it and just enjoys watching me writhe with envy each spring when I visit). She keeps telling me the name, which I suppress. I think it is close to P. armeniaca--but truth be said, there are several dozen dwarf yellow Phlomis, one cuter than the next..

Here's my picutre of a very different Phlomis I took in the Tian Shan in 2010: it grows EVERYWHERE there, and also in the Altai: Phlomis oreophila has not proven as amenable as I'd hoped--although we collected much seed. I'm afraid we've been treating it too harshly--it does like alpine conditions and lots of moisture. I'm growing the somewhat similar Phlomis bracteata which I admired in Pakistan, so I hope we can finally tame this one: it is wonderfully wooly for much of its juvenile stage as it emerges in the spring....surely a plant this abundant and widespread in the wild will be growable?

And then there is this little munchkin: I got this decades ago from an Index Seminum, and it has persisted cheerfully in the same spot in the Rock Alpine Garden. Truth be said, I'm not sure I trust the name: it looks so similar to a bevy of Sideritis I have grown, and come to think of it it could almost pass for Stachys citrina: that pale yellow color seems to be widespread in Mediterranean mints. I love this thing, but I have not researched it: the flower morphology screams Sideritis to me: I wonder if there's been a mistake?

Is it not strange that such wonderful plants, with evergreen foliage (mostly) and a long season of summer bloom have not gotten more attention? I for one will not be content until I've grown every species of Phlomis on the planet, and then some!

I believe this genus has got to be one of the very best for xeric to fetch the other hundred or so species we're still missing!


  1. I'm giving them all the attention they deserve when I find them, and sideritis and Stachys citrina -- but oh my, your seed-shy phlomis are making me almost too shaky to type, especially the one with the burnt orange flowers. I'll be keeping an eye out on seed lists for these.

  2. Nice new design, change is always good!

  3. I have a want list. It's a long one, and includes Eremostachys of all sorts, too.
    I have the idea that phlomis are self-infertile; my 20 year old plant of Phlomis armeniaca has never shown the slightest interest in setting seed.
    Liked the looks of P. herba-venti, it's done well in the garden next door. Phlomis don't seem to be able to read zone ratings when they're planted in Denver.

  4. Hmmmmm: you missed the Eremostachys on MY seedlist, Bob! they are enchanting as well. I remember your Phlomis very well: we must try cuttings. If I had a picture of it it would have been on this blog, believe me!I too am relieved that Phlomis are so myopic (or maybe it's just astickmatism?)


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