"Your voiceless lips, O flowers, are living preachers, - Each cup a pulpit, and each leaf a hook, Supplying to my fancy numerous teachers, From lowliest nock ' "
It has been truly said that a collection of Phloxes, when properly attended to, would of themselves constitute a beautiful flower-garden. So numerous are the species, and so infinite the varieties, that a continual bloom may be kept up, with a good selection, from May to October. The genus is exclusively North American, and, in the South and West, is one of the most conspicuous ornaments of the prairies and woods.
The late-flowering sorts are much to be prized on account of their lively colors of purple, red and white, and form a fine contrast with the other autumnal flowers, which are mostly yellow
The vernal ones, too, are acceptable, though humble in growth, and delight the eye with their brilliancy and loveliness. The summer varieties embrace some of the most beautiful sorts; they being intermediate in height, more delicate in foliage, and include most of the fine new eyed, striped or shaded varieties. They flower the second time if cut down immediately after flowering, in July.
While many herbaceous plants require protection in winter, none of those I am about to describe need it, with the exception of the dwarf species, which are evergreen; the flower-buds are formed in autumn, and should be slightly protected, or rather shaded. It is not so much the cold as the powerful March sun which does the damage; all that is necessary, in most cases, of protection, is to prevent the action of the sun upon the plant when in a frozen state. Most of the species delight in a moist, rich soil, but succeed tolerably well in almost any situation, provided that it is not very light and dry. No plant is more easily propagated. It is done generally by dividing the roots immediately after the bloom is over, for the early-flowering sorts, and in the spring for the late ones. They may also be raised easily from cuttings, and from seed.
Phlox subulata. - Moss Pink. - The leaf is subulate or awl-shaped; that is, narrow at the base, and becoming more or less curved to one side at the point. This pretty species displays its showy pink flowers the last of April, and in such profusion as to conceal its yellowish-green foliage, and continues in bloom for nearly a month, and is companion with the two following, and, like them, from four to six inches high. It is known by the common name of Moss Pink. It can be so rapidly increased that it may be used to advantage for edgings, but requires some care to keep it in order.
There are many improved varieties of this species, viz. white, purple, large pink, lilac with a red eye, etc.
Phlox stolonifera. - Creeping. - The plant pats forth suck. ers or shoots near the surface of the earth, which take root, something, after the manner of the strawberry. Leaves ovate, (egg-shaped,) brownish-green; stem erect, bearing a few large deep-red flowers, which begin to expand a few days later than the preceding. A very lovely species and worthy of cultivation.
Phlox nivalis. - Snow-white. - The flowers are brilliant snowy white, marked with orange in the centre, on the end of the branches, in bunches from three to five, and make their appearance from the tenth to the middle of May, and continue until the first of June. If the autumn is mild, it will produce a second crop, but not in such profusion. Leaves setaceous, (bristly,) shining deep-green. This is the most tender, and is generally more or less injured without a little protection, and it is undoubtedly one of the most elegant of the family : not common; now lost from my collection.
Phlox divaricata. - Branches divaricate; that is, spread out so far from the stem, as to form more than a right angle with it above. This beautiful species flowers the last of May, very large, pale-blue, on lax decumbent stems, one foot high. Leaves ovate lanceolate, (egg-shaped at the base, tapering off at the point like the ancient lance.) This may be considered one of the finest, but has not been so extensively disseminated as some of the tribe.
There is a white, and other varieties of this Phlox.
In describing this numerous and very ornamental branch of the family, it wi]l be necessary to cut loose from all botanical distinctions, for the species have undergone such a transformation by hybridizing, that it will puzzle a botanist to trace their parentage.
The two following are no doubt the parents, on one side, of many of the improved sorts, as the habits and style, in many respects, correspond.
Phlox maculata. - The stem is dotted with dark spots, from which circumstance it receives its generic name, maculata, (spotted.) It is one of the most common sorts, and found ornamenting almost every garden; frequently known under the name of Flora's bouquet. The flowers are so pretty, one might readily imagine the fair goddess would not be indifferent to their charms. It begins to show its purplish-red flowers the last of May, which are crowded on an oblong spike, and continues long in bloom; if cut down immediately after flowering, a second display may be expected in August or September. Stems rough; two feet high.
Phlox suaveolens. - Sweet-scented. - It has white, sweet-scented flowers, arranged in the same manner as the last; stem without spots. Leaves ovate lanceolate, quite smooth. The height and time of flowering the same as P. maculata, and by some considered as only a variety of it. It is one of the most delicate of the species, and, when grown with the last described, makes a fine appearance.
Some of the florist's varieties partake of the character of the two following: Phlox carnea. - Flesh-colored. - This delicate species commences flowering the middle of June. After its first display it continues to flower sparingly through the summer and autumn. Leaves ciliated, (eyelash-haired,) lowest setaceous, upper one linear lanceolate, (narrow lance-shape.) Branches from three to five-flowered.
Phlox Listonia. - In honor of Lady Liston. - A beautiful species, with fine red flowers, in June; a foot and a half high. Foliage broader than in most species; radical leaves rhom-boidal; upper ones ovate lanceolate.
Some of the most improved early summer varieties are the following : Phlox Van Houtteii is a superb variety, with a fine round corolla, each segment being regularly and distinctly striped with purplish-red, on white ground. Height, one and a half foot. In flower the last of June.
P. picta. - White with red eye. One and a half foot high,
- last of June and JulyPhlox ail de lynx, - Lynx-eyed, - is a beautiful dwarf variety, one foot high, with white flowers and large deep-red eye; rather delicate in its habits.
Phlox Egyptienne. - This has light lilac flowers shaded with purple, about one and a half foot high, in June and July.
Phlox jleur-de-Marie. - Has fine white flowers, with a dark-red eye; very showy.
Phlox almerine. - Flowers blush, with a small red eye.
Phlox keermisina alba. - Flowers white, with purple eye, arranged in loose pyramidal panicles of great beauty; in July
- two feet high.
Phlox meechantea speciosa. - Corolla white, beautifully tinted with rose. Three feet high in July.
Most of the Phloxes under this head are tall-growing sorts, from three to four feet high, with their flowers in graceful pyramidal corymbs.
Phlox pyramidalis alba, and purpurea, P. acuminata, P. paniculata, and other old sorts, now discarded, were probably the parents of the new varieties in this class, of which, Phlox Breckii, raised by the writer, is considered one of the very best late-flowering sorts cultivated. The flowers are produced in August and September, on stems four to six feet high, on long pyramidal dense spikes. The corolla circular, light-purple, with a white eye. The foliage, graceful, lanceolate acuminate spatulate; the upper leaves very much undulated.
Phlox Charles. - A new white variety, with pink eye; flowers in pyramidal corymbs; one and a half to two feet high in July and August.
Phlox Wilderii. - A fine seedling, with deep-red flowers, raised by the writer; corolla round and perfect; stem branched; three feet high in August.
Phlox Mary Ann. - A superb new variety, with striped flowers; corolla five-shape; the centre part of each segment is of a clear pale-purple, while the margins are pure white; in dense flattish corymbs; in July and August; one and a half foot high.
Phlox panicvlata alba. - A fine variety, with pure white flowers, arranged in pyramidal panicles; three feet high; in August.
Phlox nymphea alba. - A fine variety, with white flowers, tinted with purple; tube of the corolla purple; flowers arranged in dense spherical corymbs : three feet high; in July and August.
Phlox cordata grandiflora. - Corolla large, fine round shape, purplish-pink, with white centre, in large flattish, dense, terminal panicles; four to five feet high; in August.
Phlox decussata alba. - A fine white variety, with perfect flowers in regular compact pyramidal corymbs; three feet high; in August.
Phlox Lawrencii is a variety with white flowers; a seedling raised by W. E. Carter, late of the Botanic Garden, Cambridge; three to four feet high; in August.
Mr. Carter has raised a number of fine seedlings, flowering in August, viz.: - Phlox Frelinghuysen, with variegated flowers; and Phlox Henry Clay, with white flowers, finely penciled with purple; each about two to three feet high.
Phlox rosea superba is a variety with brilliant rose-colored flowers.
Phlox undvlata. - The margin of the leaves slightly undulated; lance oblong; stem erect, smooth, three feet high; the latest species flowers in September, and retains its beauty long after the commencement of frosts, and lingers to the confines of winter; red; many of the flowers turn white, which gives its panicled corymbs or heads a variegated appearance.
To these might be added numerous other fine varieties, as they are without number.
Some fine seedlings have appeared in my own garden within the two last years, which have attracted considerable attention at the Horticultural Rooms, on account of the largeness and perfection of the flowers, the density of the spikes or corymbs, and the colors. The last season, the first premium for the best ten varieties was awarded to the writer; six of these were his own seedlings, which competed with a number of stands, mostly of foreign origin, and that, too, of improved sorts.
Out of a large number, I have selected and numbered twenty varieties, which I thought worthy of perpetuating, for their superiority for breeders. It is a fact, that seedlings are sure to produce an abundance of seeds, while those varieties that have long been propagated by cuttings or divisions of the root, soon lose that power. It has proved, in my experience, that there is an improvement in every generation of well selected seedlings. I have been accustomed to collect all the seedling phloxes raised by my floral friends, and plant them in beds by themselves : thus, I had three or four from my friend, S. Walk-er, Esq., President of the Horticultural Society, some of Mr. Richardson, of Dorchester, others from my old acquaintance, W. E. Carter, late of the Botanic Garden, and a large number of my own. From these the seed was scattered promiscuously, and the young plants were taken up and planted by themselves, and from a great number of young seedlings my selections were made. Among these are some white, some fine red, two or three variegated; one mottled, with a red eye; and another distinctly and regularly striped with a pale-purple on white ground. Their parents being of the later sorts, these, also, correspond in the time of flowering with them, being in perfection about the first of August. I am looking for great improvements in the next brood of seedlings from these new sorts, and think I shall not be disappointed.