I am having a glorious summer with Phlox.  I discovered Phlox through reading Christopher Lloyd’s Colour for Adventurous Gardeners, one of the gardening books I return to time and time again.

I have written about my other Phlox varieties in Phloxy Lady? and Boring…  Now it is the turn of the loudest and proudest, Phlox paniculata ‘Starfire’.

This has wonderful dark maroon foliage in spring.  This becomes greener, but the maroon is retained in the calyces of the flower buds.  They set off the flower colour beautifully.

Phlox paniculata ‘Starfire’ with Geranium ‘Anne Thomson’ in the background.

This is not a plant for the faint-hearted.  Prepare yourself.

Phlox paniculata ‘Starfire’ with Geranium ‘Anne Thomson’ in the background.

In the bright border, more is more.  This is no place for subtlety.  Colour saturation is turned up to max.

Phlox paniculata ‘Starfire’

Though there is an elegance of form if you look closely.  The moths and butterflies love the trumpet-shaped flowers.  The honeyed, burnt sugar, maple syrupy scent attracts them.  And me.

Phlox paniculata ‘Starfire’

A week or so after the first flush of flowers, some start to shrivel.  Don’t think the fun ends there.  I rather like pulling them off.  They give a little ‘ah!’ as they let go.  My youngest daughter, when asking me what I was doing, discovered that a quicker way is to give the whole bloom a good shake.  The spent flowers fly off, like they are in a centrifuge.  And this is perhaps even more fun.

Phlox paniculata ‘Starfire’ ready to be exfoliated.
Phlox paniculata ‘Starfire’ after exfoliation.

Phlox is shining out from the border like a great big show-off.

Phlox paniculata ‘Starfire’ in the bright border, outshining them all.

Even when I try to put it in the background it photo-bombs the shot.

Phlox paniculata ‘Starfire’ in the bright border, photo-bombing from behind. In the foreground is Crocosmia ‘Emberglow’ with Buddleia ‘Royal Red’ behind.

I can forgive it.  It is marvellous.

Phlox paniculata ‘Starfire’ in the bright border. Buddleia ‘Royal Red’ behind and Geranium ‘Rozanne’ in the bottom right.

Experimentation has taught me that you have to fight fire with fire.  ‘Starfire’ loves being with the equally joyous Geranium ‘Anne Thomson’, the bursting fireworks of Buddleia ‘Royal Red’ and the black-purple prayer flags of Salvia ‘Amistad’.  But it does also benefit from some quieter friends.  Geranium ‘Rozanne’ is there for a little chat at the end of the day.

Do you have a favourite show-off?  Have you struggled to place it in the border?

My aim on this site is to share the sense of wonder I get from gardening and being outdoors.

Some posts are plant portraits, like this one. Others might focus on a particular sensory delight. Practical advice is balanced with a touch of whimsy.

If you would like to join the joy, click on the ‘Follow’ button at the end of this post. You will receive an email each time I post a little pop of wonder.

25 Comments Add yours

  1. I’d say the red roses are the “show-off’s” in our garden. I included a photo of one to accompany my poem: The Shape of Grief. I was smiling broadly reading this though because I was subbing the flower for a person. One of the members of my “gym family” is such a wonderful show off! I call her “sexy Sue” and she is simply fabulous! Love your daughter’s exfoliation technique!

  2. I look at your pictures and sometimes think, “I can’t believe these beauties actually exist naturally.” Flowers are incredible.

    1. Ali says:

      They really are, aren’t they? The more I study them, the more incredible I think nature is.

  3. Wow! Definitely a show off but it would be a pity to reign in all that colourful exuberance. Gorgeous photos, love the way that beauty catches the light.

  4. That is a bold colour! ☺ We used the roses as our guide for the colour scheme in the front garden, and my hubby found Phlox Paniculata Peacock Cherry Red matches the hot pink rose, it’s almost as bright as yours!

    1. Ali says:

      There are lots of Phlox varieties, aren’t there? I think I love them all.

  5. We have lots of these, needing a certain amount of watering at the moment. My current favourites are the day lilies

    1. Ali says:

      The day lilies are wonderful, aren’t they? Some of mine are approaching the end of their run…

      1. Ours, too. Thanks very much, Ali

      2. Ali says:

        Do you grow Gladioli? I spotted the first few spikes of mine – they make a good replacement when the Hemerocallis go over.

      3. We do have a few

  6. bcparkison says:

    A show stopper for sure. Beautiful rich color

  7. Cathy says:

    That is indeed a vibrant colour and one to look out for – unkess you could spare a cutting or two,,? Thinking about colour, my blue & white border was originally created because I had a very blue salvia that just didn’t look right in any of the other borders – the salvia didn’t survive but the border did!

    1. Ali says:

      That’s interesting! Yes, gardening is definitely like that, isn’t it? Plants lead the way and generate all sorts of ideas.

    2. Ali says:

      I meant to say yes of course I can spare cuttings of anything! Where do you live?

      1. Cathy says:

        Oh thanks Ali, that is kind. I have found it can be easy to take a cutting of phlox from the base of a plant, with a bit of both stem and root – like a very small division, I suppose, but they have worked from root cuttings too. I will email you with an adddress if you are happy to send a cutting and of course do ask if there is anything I can tempt you with 😉

      2. Ali says:

        I’m just wondering how to pack it – wrapped in damp kitchen paper and a plastic bag? Then in a jiffy?

      3. Cathy says:

        You might be surprised at the variety of plant matter that wings its way between different bloggers – we are such a generous bunch! But yes, with a little bit of bubble wrap as well to prevent squashing that should be OK

      4. Ali says:

        okey dokes! Did you say you would email your address?

      5. Cathy says:

        I did yes – will do it shortly. Thank you 🙂

  8. Heyjude says:

    Your phlox are truly delightful. And I am so glad she has Rozanne to chat to to calm her down. Good friends are well worth keeping close.

    1. Ali says:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s