Notice all the lovely purple, pink, and white garden phlox in this picture. (Garden phlox varieties all belong to the species Phlox paniculata, native to the eastern half of the United States.) Notice how it’s growing behind taller plants such as Rudbeckia and Boltonia. That was not my plan when I planted this garden 15 years ago or more.
The phlox varieties were planted in a group in the back of the border. They were the tallest plants in this border and were intended as the cornerstone of the summer garden. But of all the native plants I’ve ever grown, phlox is the one the rabbits and deer seem to like most.
I thought the phlox was gone. It certainly hadn’t bloomed in at least 10 years. I planted the taller Boltonia (thin stems, not yet in bloom) and Rudbeckia, plus some sunflowers and numerous other species, to fill in the gap it left behind. But there it is. There’s nothing like a little garden serendipity.
I think the reason the phlox is staging a comeback is that it’s now surrounded by other plants that critters like to eat (they LOVE Boltonia). And the border is so colorful and full because there are so many plants that the critters, even the rabbits nesting in this very bed, can’t possibly eat them all. The very cold winter probably helped as well. Everything is doing well this year: A lot of the critters got killed off. Hooray for the balance of nature.
I love garden surprises like this one. I just can’t figure out how to make the phlox more visible. If I move it forward it’s more likely to get eaten . . .