Rockport, Redux ~ Pretty in Pink

Drummond’s phlox ~ Phlox drummondii

I’ve never heard someone say, “Let’s drive out to the country to see the phlox,” but several varieties of phlox grow wild across Texas, and when they spread their sweet, pink glow across the landscape, they rival even our bluebonnets for eye-catching loveliness.

In early March, Drummond’s phlox (Phlox drummondii) was in full bloom at the Rockport City Cemetery. Named for Scottish naturalist, botanist, and explorer Thomas Drummond, the plant is only one of many that bear his name. During an expedition through Texas in 1835, Drummond shipped specimens and seeds to England, where English botanist Sir W. J. Hooker declared P. drummondii to be “decidedly among the greatest ornaments of the greenhouse in the Glasgow Botanic Garden.”

Drummond’s phlox is known for soft, hairy, and sticky leaves; enlarging the first photo shows the glandular nature of its hairs. Perhaps because of their small size the buds rarely are noticed, but their opening is a delight to behold.


Comments always are welcome.


51 thoughts on “Rockport, Redux ~ Pretty in Pink

  1. Beautiful, and I do have a love of hairy leafed plants. Your genuine interest in flowers shows in how you are able to convey their special characteristics so wonderfully.

    1. Hairy plants are more abundant than I realized. To paraphrase an old saying, they’re more than just a pretty bloom.

      What surprised me was how common these ‘sticky’ plants are. The carnivorous are the most dramatic, I suppose — I’m thinking sundew, here — but there are many others. Somewhere I have a photo of another sticky plant with insects embedded in the goo. I read that non-carnivorous sticky plants will use the insects they trap as a defense against other insects. More research is required — not to mention finding that photo.

    1. I loved learning that one of our native genera traveled to England and became a beloved garden plant there. On the Lady Bird Johnson native plant site, it mentions that the seeds Drummond sent back eventually resulted in two hundred or so cultivars of various colors.

  2. We have phlox in our backyard and when it blooms in late summer it is quite breathtaking, and a magnet for hummingbirds and insect pollinators. I don’t recall this variety having hairy, sticky leaves, but I will be sure to check this year.

    1. There were butterflies galore nectaring on the cemetery phlox: both swallowtails and monarchs, and one I haven’t identified yet. I read that despite their small size, phlox are exceedingly rich in nectar, and even a little observation confirms that. I’m not sure I have any post-able photos of the butterflies, since in their excitement they were moving from flower to flower faster than I could follow them. Still, it was good to see them out and about: some ragged and torn, and some fresh from their chrysalis.

    1. What a great play on words. When I was among the flocks of phlox, I realized that I most often had photographed their open faces, and most often had viewed them by looking straight down. So, I decided on that edgier approach. The photos aren’t quite as sharp as I intended, but they’re still quite interesting.

    2. I just found the most fascinating article about these flowers. If you scroll down to the photos, there’s a short paragraph beneath that sums up the thrust of the study. The whole article’s going to require some time and a dictionary, but it’s fun to find some familiar species being studied.

    1. I’m always delighted by their variety: not only in color, but also in shape, and the combinations that arise through hybridization. Drummond’s phlox sometimes is a wonderful red; this study has some interesting information about that. Despite all the science, if you scroll down to the photos, there’s a short paragraph beneath them that sums it up.

  3. I needed to see a pink bloom today. After two days of blue skies, they are now back to that horrible gray-white and a little bright helps so much! I love the detail of the hair and the second almost looks like an opening rose. Lovely, Linda.

    1. I wondered if anyone else would see a resemblance to the rose, and you did. Another flower with rose-like buds is the winecup. Even though phlox, winecups, and roses are in different families, their appearance can be remarkably similar, especially in the bud stage.

      We have those gray skies this morning, too, but at least there’s been rain to make them more tolerable. We haven’t had much rain here, but with luck there will be more. Some areas of the state that were tending toward drought got a good bit — a real blessing.

  4. My favorite gardener and horticulturalist, John Bartram, sent many New World plants over to England in the 1700’s. I think we have always been very global when it comes to plants.

    1. You’ve mentioned Bartram before, and he certainly did have an interesting life. When I remembered that he was the first North American experimenter to hybridize flowering plants, I wondered if he was involved with phlox. Of course he was.

      On the Monticello site, in the section devoted to various collections, it says of P. subulata, or creeping phlox: “This ornamental phlox is native to the eastern and central United States and was introduced into cultivation by the late 1700s. John Bartram first cited this species when he wrote to Peter Collinson in December 1745 as it became one of the first “low-growing” species to enter Great Britain.”

      1. Collinson and Bartram were good friends and never met each other. It was totally by letters. Collinson would sell Bartram’s plants and had an account for him in England and would send items Bartram would request. A relationship totally built on trust.

  5. I am so grateful for the drink of nature’s beauty that you provide daily on this blog. I also feel inspired to look for the beauty in the wilderness of the city.

    1. Sometimes it’s worth turning off the tv and closing out social media and just having a look around. I was surprised as could be to find a clutch of meadow pinks blooming in a flower bed at a local marina last week. Usually I see them only on prairies and such, but there they were. All we need do is look. I’m glad you’re enjoying what I see when I look around.

    1. Color does lift the spirits, doesn’t it? I love phlox for the range of colors they provide, even in nature. This species sometimes is the most brilliant red imaginable. I found a yard filled with red ones on this same trip, but decided I’d get a photo the next time I passed by. Whoops! Sometimes weather changes plans, sometimes work obligations change plans, sometimes mowers change plans, and sometimes a pandemic rolls into the neighborhood. My new rule? Always take time to stop!

  6. Both are excellent shots, really nice touch, Linda, and I like all those feathery hairs.
    It’s a much different-looking flower than the phlox I’m used to seeing in the north. One of my grandmothers dug up some clumps from her yard, and planted them at my parents’ house, I looked it up and I guess some variety of paniculata. I checked with the “old folks at home” who report: very sturdy and reliable, but during humid summers, very prone to powdery mildew, and needing to be dosed with baking soda.

    I saw Bartram mentioned above – you can still visit his old stone house and a big garden, in Philadelphia. I was amazed, the summer I worked there, to find out it still existed, with acres of land, on the Schuylkill. It’s kind of strange to stand in a colonial-era garden, and see the CSX yard across the river, and a massive oil refinery sticking up, just around the bend. They’ve got a tree there, with really nice-smelling blossoms, that Bartram named for Ben Franklin.

    1. I read that Bartram and Franklin were friends. It always tickles me when I surface another of those long-ago relationships. When I learned about some of these guys in school, more often than not it was in terms of their accomplishments, inventions, and so on. There might have been a basic biography provided, but almost nothing about their personal relationships.

      The fact that the CSX yard and the refinery are only around the bend is due to industrialist Andrew Eastwick. In 1850 (!) he purchased the garden to protect it from encroaching industry. Talk about a visionary. And I found the name of the tree named for Franklin. It’s Franklinia alatamaha . The original plant was discovered in Georgia, and then brought to Philadelphia. There’s a neat article here. They say the flowers resemble camellias, but they look more like our magnolia blossoms to me.

      As for powdery mildew? You bet. Even non-gardener me has heard complaints about that little issue.

        1. Well, sometimes exclamations don’t have to mean anything particular — it’s the tone and volume that count. The syllables are just the veneer of civilization!

  7. Good morning, Linda,
    My mouth is still hanging open in admiration of that first picture. I could only gasp “OMG” when I saw it. Absolutely wonderful.
    Have a great weekend, and stay healthy,

    1. Pit, I’ll take an *OMG* any time! It’s a marvelous and complex world out there, and nothing’s more fun than capturing a bit of it — especially when that ‘bit’ is as surprising as this one is. With the rain you’ve been getting, your wildflowers should be especially happy — even though it will mean getting that lawn mower out sooner rather than later.

      1. We had a great rain last night, and maybe we’ll have some more this coming night and next week. And with that, I can’t mow our lawn, of course, and I’m wondering if the lawn mower will be able to get through it when I finally will be able to mow.
        As to the wildflowers: as soon as we get a sunny day, we should go out on the Willow Loop.

        1. Lucky, lucky you. My friend in Kerrville and I had been planning to do that, until the recent unpleasantness. Apart from the fact that she’s near 90, and I wouldn’t want to carry the virus to her, her life’s been complicated by the fact that her daughter, who lives with her husband in a second house on the property, is an editor at the Kerrville newspaper. Several newspaper employees are in quarantine now, including the managing editor, thanks to a visit from someone in Houston who was diagnosed with the disease. So, we wait. Maybe the fall flowers will be great!

    1. They’re so pretty. They make a wonderful background for other colors, and they’re cute as can be individually. There’s another phlox that’s pink with a yellow and white center, and it’s absolutely worth a drive!

  8. What GP Cox just said. Maybe if some local magazine picks up your shots of this phlox it will become the hit of the town and, once this pandemic finally passes, flocks of people will flock out to see phlox’s wonder. The bud in the second picture looks rose-like.

    A funny thing…when I click the first image it opens in place of the post. But when I click the second image it opens another window. More WP gremlin action.

    1. No, that’s operator error. I neglected to check the little box that says “open in a new window” for the first photo. Now, I’ve checked the box and it works as it should. I know what happened, but it’s not important. Thanks for mentioning it.

      I think the bud looks rose-like, too. Buds generally make me happy, but the tiny ones are especially nice. I never suspected how neatly their mimic the larger ones.

  9. Both photos are beautiful, but in the first one, the phlox looks like “she” (sorry, seems like a feminine flower) is holding her hands up as if to say: “I’m just gorgeous!” And she (he) is! I love phlox. I grew them for a few years, many years ago. I was astounded at how they hybridized over time. My little patches would create (with the help of their partners, the pollinators) every conceivable combination of pink/white/purple imaginable.

    For some reason, I haven’t had much luck in recent years, but I should buy some seeds from LBJWC the next time I’m there and try again.

    1. I think ‘she’ is perfectly acceptable, as the flower does seem feminine. It would have fit in well with my childhood bedroom. I’m not sure now whether I wanted all that pink and white, or whether it was my mother’s idea, but it was as frilly and pretty as this flower.

      I was surprised to see how many species of native phlox we have. This one isn’t listed in Eason’s book, but I decided he’d made the choice to include species from different areas of the state. I was surprised to see that P. mesoleucagrows in the Chihuahuan Desert. As for P. pilosa he says it’s “widely available in thr nursery and seed trade; expected elsewhere [e.g. Edwards plateau] as this species tends to escape and persist.” That might make it a good one for you.

  10. What a lovely pink. I like the way the petals uncurl. I wonder if the hairiness of the stems and leaves protects the buds from crawlies, so that the nectar is preserved for the airborne.

    1. The short answer’s “Yes,” but here’s an interesting longer answer. Depending on the plant’s nature, the hairs can help to warm or cool it, or protect it from insects that would like it for lunch. Even the most seemingly delicate plants (like this one) have their ways.

  11. These are stunning, Linda, and, while I’m not typically a “pink person,” I certainly enjoy this shade of rose. For some odd reason, we’ve not been able to grow phlox here. I see it often in others’ yards and in the stores for sale, but our yard doesn’t seem to enjoy it. Hmm, maybe if they lift this quarantine in time for me to buy flowers, I’ll get a few plants, just to see if they’ll grow.

    1. I generally don’t wear pink, and certainly wouldn’t paint a room pink, but I do enjoy these flowers, especially since they can provide every shade of pink in the same patch. It’s funny how some plants will thrive in one spot and refuse to grow in another only a short distance away. I’m not enough of a gardener to be able to solve problems like that, but a little experimentation never hurts!

    1. I can see both, depending on which image I’m looking at. They’re certainly more complex than I’d thought. Looking at them from above, from a normal human perspective, many of the details just aren’t visible. It’s another reminder to appreciate what a macro lens can do.

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