June 29, 2021
Once more the intermittent rains have caused another of the flowers in our front bed to flourish. The phlox were one of the flowers planted by Melissa’s mom when her parents moved in with her twenty years ago. I previously talked about taking the time to weed around these plants and cut back the dead stems that die over the winter. If you do not remove them, they will persist as dead casings and detract from the overall beauty of the flowers. Even though I have given the plants only limited attention, they have now exploded in a flurry of color over the last week.
When I looked online, I found that Phlox are one of the most diverse perennial plants in nature. They fall into one of two groups, the creeping phlox (Phlox subulata) and the tall phlox (Phlox paniculate). The name of the plant is derived from the Greek word “phlox” meaning “flame” and refers to the intense flower colors of the different varieties. While both groups feature masses of small florets in a range of vibrant colors, the similarity ends there. The creeping phlox is a semi-evergreen ground cover that bursts into bloom in the spring. It is often seen in rock gardens or spilling over walls. Tall phlox are conical flower spikes made up of hundreds of florets that bloom in the summertime. I guess the intense heat conditions this year mean the flowers know it is already summer.
Tall Phlox is a native American wildflower that grows from New York to Iowa, and south to Georgia, Mississippi, and Arkansas that blooms from July to September. The Phlox paniculate are also commonly known as garden phlox and rather than creeping along the ground, they grow upright. Fertilized flowers typically produce one relatively large seed. The seed is a longitudinally dehiscent capsule with three or more valves that sometimes separate explosively. All phlox are fragrant, and the aroma is used to attract birds, bees, and butterflies to your garden. Melissa’s mom loved hummingbirds and butterflies, and that was why the Phlox were planted. They have done well.
Thoughts: While melissa knew the plants in our front bed were phlox, the only examples I could find were creeping phlox. The creepers hug along the surface and the flowers do not get more than 6-8 inches above the ground. Our phlox were almost 3 feet high, so I knew this could not be what we had. It took a diligent search to identify the second type, the tall phlox. Quite often humans will “know” something even though the facts do not bear it out. I knew the flowers were phlox even though none of the images I found were remotely similar. What I found was it was close, but different. In matters of importance, close enough rarely works in the long term. We got close enough to herd immunity with the vaccine, and many decided it was no longer their responsibility to protect themselves or others. That is why the cases are again on the rise across the US. Follow the science. Change is coming and it starts with you.