Don't be out-phloxed; try the Intensia Series
By Norman Winter
Phlox seem to be blooming everywhere now, already making the springtime sizzle. The two you mostly see are the creeping Phlox subulata and the Louisiana phlox, or Wild Sweet William, known botanically as Phlox divaricata.
How would you like to have a phlox that starts blooming in the early spring and lasts until fall frosts? Though this seems pretty far-fetched, if you visited the Fall Flower and Garden Fest in Crystal Springs last year, you may have noted the prettiest flowers were a group of phlox. There were about four colors in the Intensia phlox series that caused the commotion.
The Intensia series is brought to us by Proven Winners and was among the top two or three plants in trials across the country. In our trials, it bloomed from spring until frost. The parentage of this new phlox has not really been made public, though it's pretty much known to be a Phlox drummondii, the annual phlox native to Texas.
But this is where it gets confusing. The Phlox drummondii is seed produced and is normally a spring and early summer bloomer. The Intensia series is vegetatively produced, packed with vigor and blooms as a tiny plant and keeps blooming all season. In many cases it has taken on perennial qualities.
If you have been to the Fall Flower and Garden Fest, then you have noticed that we plant just about everything on raised beds. As I write this, we are expecting another downpour of 2 to 3 inches of rain similar to what occurred a couple days ago. We had more than 6 inches of rain in January and again that much in February. Raised beds really help the water get in and out without causing root rot problems.
Whether you want the great new Intensia phlox, Mystic Spires Blue salvia or some of the new lantanas, you need good drainage and aeration for your plants.
The colors in the Intensia series are bright. Look for Lavender Glow, Lilac Rose, Neon Pink and Cabernet. Because of this long bloom season, choices of companion plants are endless. For much of the season they will be 10- to 12-inches tall, getting slightly taller by fall.
At this height, plant in drifts perhaps in front of gloriosa-type daises like Indian Summer or Prairie Sun. Plant drifts next to Becky Shasta daisies, Magnus purple coneflowers or lime green forms of coleus. This long season of bloom allows them to be partnered with yellow lantanas, so look for the new Lucky Pot of Gold or Lucky Yellow.
If you can't find the Intensia series at your garden center, watch for the new Astoria series coming from Suntory and Jackson and Perkins. These, too, have been performing well in trials and are vegetatively propagated.
With all the new plants arriving at your local garden center, you have to admit it is a great time to be a gardener.
March 23, 2006
Editor's Note: Ideal publication dates of Southern Gardening columns are within one month of their release. Editors should examine older columns carefully for any information that could be time sensitive.
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