Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Garden Phlox

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Already past 10 o'clock this morning and the wind is coming up just as predicted. Last night's 4"-8" turned out to be only 3" but this wind is tossing it into drifts that confuse the totals. I'm still enjoying the 29°, knowing that we'll be below zero again in two days. The wild birds are in a feeding frenzy as if there is a storm approaching I don't know about but they were late in arriving this morning and that may be the cause of their behavior.

One of our favorite plants has always been garden phlox although you would never know it if you visited us. For years we have tried to grow phlox in pots for resale and have failed miserably, so much so that I refused to grow any until I completed a better study. I read what I could find for information and listened to University of Vermont studies on controlling powdery mildew. I attended a couple lectures and asked every grower I met if they had words of wisdom.

During the fall of 2009, we took all our potted phlox and lined them out at the nursery. They were planted at the top of the hill where air circulation was best and where the tall trees along the river provided some shade. The clay soil, although amended before planting, held too much moisture and although the roots grew well, the weeds seemed to grow taller than the phlox.

Purely by accident, "someone" planted some phlox in the lower garden by the river. It turned out to be a "good" mistake. The soil there is what I call sandy river loam but the correct classification is Sunny Silt Loam. The Natural Resources Conservation Service says about these soils:

"Sunny soils formed in loamy over sandy alluvial deposits on flood plains that are frequently flooded for brief duration from Fall through late Spring. They are very deep to bedrock and poorly drained. These soils have a water table at depths of 0 to 1.5 feet below the surface from late Fall through late Spring. Permeability is moderate in the loamy material and rapid in the sandy substratum."

At our location, the area does not flood but runoff from the mountain across Route 2 in early Spring and during heavy summer rains, collects for a day or two. The soil itself within 80-100 feet of the river is heavily stoned and absent of much organic material. Prior to our arrival the land was grown for hay and I heard corn was grown for a short period before it was reseeded with grass and various clovers.

The long and short of the soil story is that the phlox that were planted by mistake did very well. They showed no sign of mildew and their root systems multiplied several times what we had experienced at the top of the hill. We were impressed enough with the outcome to work up a new piece of land and prepare it for more planting this Spring. We have 14 varieties left from last year and are adding another ten varieties for this year. The plants should be ready for sale by late June-early July. They will be field dug based on demand.

If you like phlox, stop by for a visit. In coming months I will be adding a page to our website with pictures and descriptions. I have added pictures of the 14 leftovers on our Facebook Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens page. Phlox such as 'Bright Eyes', pictured below, can brighten your summer garden and add height to you cut flower arrangements.

Note: Blue Paradise pictured up top. Middle picture is an unnamed blue garden phlox from a century old farm in Randloph, Vt--a gift of one of Gail's friends.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where light snow continues and Karl the Wonder Dog says "Time for a walk."

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
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