Plants, much like children, need to be loved to thrive. Thus the passionate gardener will steadfastly care and worry for each and every green sprout in his yard, individually, without regard of what an uninvolved observer would classify as useless waste of space.
The gardener will move plants around to offer them better conditions, pick out diseased leaves, get upset about rabbits eating new shoots and nurse apparently dead sticks back to life. If you ask every gardener, though, they will sheepishly admit playing favorites. There are always a few plants in your garden that you would be really sad not to see again. One of mine is “David” – a white garden phlox whose scent is out of this world.
It stands alone, tall above a field of dark green mint, in a shaded area of the garden: the shadows frame its perfectly white blooms providing striking contrast. It doesn’t bloom a lot, because it is mostly in the shade, but when it does it has the most intoxicating perfume, something between linden tree flowers and lilies. The scent reaches you from a distance, drawing you to the remote side of the garden where it grows.
I unsuccessfully tried to propagate it, it won’t take to much better locations, in full sun. Garden phlox usually grows like a weed, no matter where you plant it (I moved some purple ones in complete shade and they are still blooming). Not this one: it needs attention and care, but it’s finally thriving.
So, if you are ever in a plant nursery and wonder “where is that wonderful fragrance coming from?”, don’t forget to check the perennials section for white garden phlox.
Oriental lilies are in a league of their own. They are a class above other flowers in terms of fragrance; their perfume is just intoxicating and announces their presence from feet away, just in case you might have missed the pure white corolla with bright red stems (as the Casablanca in this picture).
What can I say? The squirrels and rabbits love them, so chances are that if you have any left of the tens you planted without a protective net, you are lucky. If they make it through a couple of seasons, though, they will form a strong expanding clump and you will enjoy them for years to come.
They bloom mid-summer and grow stately tall – 3-4 feet, so they will be happy towards the back of the border. Make sure they are not crowded, because they need good air movement around their stems to stay healthy. They love full to part-sun and will mix well with contrasting colors and textures, such as red astilbe, and delphiniums.
A more familiar sight in New Orleans and Alabama, the Southern Magnolia is a wonderful evergreen tree with broad shiny leaves and huge (up to 30″ in diameter) white fragrant flowers. It is the latest bloomer of all the magnolias in the midwest, it blooms at the end of May, beginning of June, when other trees are long done flowering. The flowers develop into an artichoke shaped fruit, filled with beautiful flaming red seeds that look like corn kernels.
The tree, once established, is unpretentious and resilient, and it successfully withstands negative Fahrenheit temperatures with minimal damage. It changes its leathery leaves all year long, but goes through a major shedding in spring.
Speaking of attractive garden features for the cold season, this tree looks like this picture, minus the flower, in the dead of winter.
Garden Phlox is a perennial staple for the northern gardens. A resilient, care-free, sun loving plant, it is adorned with bunches of flowers ranging in color from white to bright magenta. Most of the varieties are wonderfully scented. The white variety “David” is exquisitely fragrant. It blooms all summer and the blooms last a long time. Phlox can be propagated by seed, cuttings, and clump division. From my experience, it is quite a prolific self-seeder, so make sure to deadhead the ripened flowers if you don’t want it spreading.
The Garden Phlox is an unpretentious flower, but don’t underestimate it. It is quite spectacular in mass plantings, it fills your garden with its fragrance, and butterflies love it. Don’t plant it in crowded places because it is susceptible to mildew and it needs lots of air movement around its canes to stay healthy. It grows tall and broad, so it is not a candidate for the front row.
Stock is a great flower for the front of the bed, since it has a low growing habit and is delightfully fragrant. The flowers are double and they cover all shades of pink and purple. It germinates reliably and true to variety. These flowers were started from last year’s crop seeds.
Stock is an old fashioned favorite of the cottage garden. They are wonderful in flower arrangements.