By Norman Winter
(MCT)—On more than one occasion I have been guilty of warning gardeners the perils of being out phloxed by their neighbors. If this happens the neighbors will certainly have the most dazzling landscapes in the neighborhood. Should you feel that this danger is creeping upon you and your flower border, then-remember the variety Intensia.
The Intensia phlox has certainly put the fun of growing color back into the everyday garden. The series has been out for a while but is still the one that others aspire to. Each day on the way to work I pass by a glorious bed of Intensia Blueberry. When this one hit the trial circuit a couple of years ago it captured numerous awards from Wisconsin to Florida and Oregon to Illinois.
My experience is that all of the Intensia phlox bloom virtually all summer. With a little deadheading In August I have had them simply amazing gardeners into October. This is most rare for a phlox of any species. There are eight colors in the series with other favorites Cabernet and Neon Pink. They will reach around 15 inches tall and as wide.
Spring is really the preferred time to plant. To be honest if I saw some healthy 6-inch containers at the garden center I would give them a try no matter where I lived. Select a site with fertile, well-drained soil giving them plenty of sun for best blooming. Even though those close to my home have been troopers in full sun and temperatures off the charts, they are certainly tolerant of a little afternoon shade or filtered light. After planting, apply a good layer of mulch to conserve moisture and deter weed competition. This is not a phlox for wet feet so don’t over water.
The Intensia series is low maintenance, requiring no deadheading. In our Mississippi State trials, we gave them a light trimming in late summer to have them at their peak performance for our annual October Fall Flower and Garden Fest. Like many other phlox the Intensia does have a wonderful fragrance and will do its part in feeding nectar-hungry bees and butterflies.
Because of their rugged nature you have a lot of choices when it comes to companion plantings. The landscape I drive by everyday has them partnered with yellow gold mimulus. The mimulus, also called monkeyflower, has also surprised me in surviving the 106 temperatures. The combination makes for an incredible complementary color scheme.
The past few years some of the prettiest partnerships I have seen have been with pink selections like Intensia Neon Pink, Victoria Blue salvia and Diamond Frost euphorbia. Each flower was totally different not just from color but from shape and texture which made the combination even more striking. By all means, include them in your mixed containers as well. They aren’t quite tall enough for the thriller plant but will be unbeatable in the filler role. They also excel in mixed hanging baskets.
The Intensia is not your grandmother’s phlox but innovative breeding has no doubt incorporated the best traits of her favorite varieties and has given us the outstanding Intensia series. I hope you give it a try.
Norman Winter is executive director of the Columbus Botanical Garden, Columbus Ga., and author of “Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South.”
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