Rhapsody in blue – Phlox ‘Moody Blues’

Unsung Hero

Phlox ‘Moody Blues’

One of the lovely colours in this range of blue annual phlox

One of the lovely colours in this range of blue annual phlox

If ever there was a plant that deserved to be better known, it is the annual phlox (Phlox drummondii). In the past few years people considered the demise of busy Lizzies as a bedding plant a disaster as though there was nothing to replace it but here is a plant that will do the job. It is best in sun and will not replace busy Lizzies in shade but otherwise it’s a great plant.

Phlox drummondii is native to Texas and neighbouring states and was introduced to Britain in about 1835 by Thomas Drummond, a Scottish plant collector.

There are lots of varieties and the first I grew was a ‘twinkle’ type with starry flowers but most have rounded petals with flowers like the traditional herbaceous phlox but smaller and on mounded plants about 25-30cm high and slightly more across. There have been significant improvements in recent years though I do not think a lot of some of the dwarfer varieties and doubles are necessarily beautiful. One of the joys of this plant is the wide variety of colours and ‘Tapestry’ (from Dobies among others) is a marvelous mix.

But my favourite, for quite a few years, is ‘Moody Blues’. This is almost perfect for bedding. The seeds are fairly large and easy to raise in a propagator, sown in late March, and the seedlings grow well if you take care not to water them too much. The seedlings may look a bit leggy at first and they flower when quite young, but they quickly bush out once planted.

'Moody Blues' in July, soon after planting, - three plants between each ground cover rose 'Magic Carpet'

‘Moody Blues’ in July, soon after planting, – three plants between each ground cover rose ‘Magic Carpet’

The great thing about ‘Moody Blues’ is that it is beautiful blend of many blue colours, from the palest, creamy blue to deep indigo through bitones to make a lovely display in an unusual colour.

Later in summer with Lavatera 'Dwarf Pink Blush'  behind

Later in summer with Lavatera ‘Dwarf Pink Blush’ behind

Even better, the flowers have a light fragrance and they keep on blooming right into autumn. Just one point; the catalogues often say annual phlox are good for cutting. The taller kinds may be but the stems branch and spread too much and will have dead flower clusters so they need a fair bit of picking over to make a good vaseful.

phlox moody lavatera

Thompson & Morgan £1.99 for 175 seeds

www.thompson-morgan.com

Mr Fothergills £2.05 for 175 seeds

www.mr-fothergills.co.uk

Suttons Seeds £1.99 for 190 seeds

http://www.suttons.co.uk

Stop-press

This year I trialled a new variety ‘ Pomegranate Beauty’ (Mr Fothergills). A review in New Plants will follow.

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2 Comments on “Rhapsody in blue – Phlox ‘Moody Blues’”

  1. Kaye Russell
    June 1, 2014 at 5:35 pm #

    This plant was outstanding in my 2013 garden. It mounded and looked like impatiens and but was very average on watering for my zone 5 full-sun location. I wanted to buy it again, but my source isn’t selling it this year.I’m on the hunt for it ,in northern Indiana. Could you please list the available colors.?

    • thebikinggardener
      June 1, 2014 at 5:46 pm #

      I am not sure about US suppliers but I think the best bet, from my side of the Atlantic would be to try Thompson & Morgan – http://www.tandmworldwide.com
      I am glad that you liked it too and of course it is a US native. There is a wide range of colours – possibly more than in any other annual – from blue to white, pink, orange, cherry and every shade in between but there are fewer single-coloured seed packs – most are mixtures. I hope you manage to get some seeds.

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