Curb their enthusiasm? Never!



It should not be surprising that we get pitches and press
releases all the time. The online gardening community understands that blogs
like this have an impact. As they should! But we only pay real attention to
companies whom we feel have real news to share or perhaps a cool giveaway that we
know you’ll love. Or … you gotta appreciate a press release that starts like

 I HATE Phlox paniculata, I LOVE Phlox paniculata, I HATE
Phlox paniculata, I LOVE Phlox paniculata, I HATE Phlox paniculata, I LOVE
Phlox paniculata, I HATE Phlox paniculata, I LOVE Phlox paniculata!

 Ha. Don’t we all feel that way about every almost every
plant that we grow? This is about the Phlox paniculata “Jeana” and it comes
from Barry of Sunshine Farms. Supposedly this miracle phlox has 100 long
lasting, fragrant, lavender/pink flowers, and (of course) never gets mildew.

And all that may be true. But what I love about this pitch
is the acknowledgement of the vagaries and ambivalence of gardeners. Innocent healthy
plants that are doing just what they ought to be doing, no more and no less,
can evoke hatred and disgust, while sickly, faltering specimens call forth our
most loving attentions. How can we get them to thrive? And then there are
plants that run the gamut. I love, love , love my purple-flowering
hostas in July, but in mid-September I plot against them, hate their yellow,
prematurely-decaying leaves, and plan to pull them all out in the spring.

Right now I HATE phlox paniculata. Last year my three plants ("David's Lavender," top) from Select Seeds did fine; they bloomed about 3 feet high. Now there are about
7 plants, they’re all about 5 feet tall and none have bloomed. It’s been a wet,
chilly summer here; we’re just now getting some heat and sunshine, but still.
They don’t have mildew though, I’ll give them that.

None of this exactly makes me want to try  “Jeana.” But I liked the pitch. Now
that almost all the plant vendors have initiated regular enewsletters and other
digital marketing efforts, I am automatically deleting more emails than ever
before. Recently, Brent and Becky’s indicated they may start a newsletter—we'll see what they decide. Hopefully, they'll follow the example of companies like Sunshine, Old House Gardens, and, of course, Plant
Delights for devising pitches that entertain, inform, and amuse.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. Last night I went out and picked an arm load of phlox blossoms. They have reseeded everywhere and although the mother plant is still hot pink, her children are a wishy-washy peptobismal color.

    At least they smell heady and sweet.

  2. I have phlox that hasn’t bloomed in seven years. Two years ago I tried to dig out one bunch of them and I’m still pulling up tiny stems from the roots of the mother. With the other clump – no mildew at least.

  3. When I moved into my house 11 years ago there were two patcheds of Phlox paniculata that I have left. The look remarkably similar to ‘Jeana’ and bloom like clockwork every year without too much mildew. Every time I try and replicate that for a client however, the results aren’t as spectacular or reliable. You are right it’s a love-hate plant.

  4. I too inherited phlox with the house. I too have a love/hate relationship with them. I planted bright eyes and David. both those have piddled out but the old stuff that has all reverted to magenta, a much maligned color in many garden books, bloom their silly heads off and are 6′ tall. I dead head religiously and dig up clumps every year or they would take over the world. I like the magenta color. I goes with every thing. The old dble orange day lillies look good with it.

  5. What’s to hate about phlox? They are beautiful, smell good, spread, and perform reliably for me on a difficult albeit sunny slope every year. I knew I was home when I stepped out of my car on the night of July 13 and my senses were immediately assaulted by their lovely fragrance.

  6. I’m one of the lovers of Phlox paniculata, but it’s because may of the old cultivars (like the heirloom pink), Mt. Fuji and ‘Bright Eyes’ do well here. We have hot, hot, hot weather in Oklahoma, and Phlox shrubs it off. Haven’t seen a speck of mildew, but in a mild, wet climate watch out. Thanks for showing us this cute pitch.~~Dee

  7. I hate all p. paniculata cultivars, but LOVE the flaming magenta, mildew impervious, months of blooming straight species.

  8. Phlox ‘Jeana’ is my baby. I didn’t name it, Dan Hinkley did after he was smitten with it. I told Barry that he needed to change the description on the phlox many months ago, but I think it’s not a priority. It’s uniqueness is from probably being a hybrid between P. paniculata and some unknown actor. It blooms for months and, for some odd reason, attracts far more pollinators than other phlox right next to it. Plus it produces no seed and is mildew free.

    Lots of people have mildew free phlox and it’s too bad they’re not available to us gardeners. The ones that are supposed to be mildew resistant often aren’t for many of us and they spoil it for potential phlox lovers. My best advice for those with mildewy phlox is to keep an eye healthy ones in other gardens. You may be able to find someone with a local resistant strain. Don’t hate them all because what you buy gets mildew. The best stock I could’ve gotten came from a friend who had a giant bed with it self-seeded throughout. I picked out a few colors I likes and now have alot of nice resistant or immmune varieties (the ones that get a little get it from the named ones i brought in for different color ranges).

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