Mildew-resistant Phlox and Container Artichokes … Who Knew?

I always learn so much at Master Gardener events and was thrilled to take home these three gems of information.

by Jessica Walliser
Photo by Jessica Walliser
I can’t wait to experiment with growing artichokes in containers!

I spoke a few weeks ago to a Master Gardeners group in Lancaster County, Pa., about gardening in the shade. While I was there, I got to hear the other speakers give presentations, as well.  I always learn so much at these events and was thrilled to take home these three gems of information (among many others):

1. Mildew-resistant Phlox
There is a “new-to-me” powdery mildew-resistant garden phlox! I love phlox but cannot stand when powdery mildew makes the foliage look as if it’s been dusted with baby powder. Although powdery mildew doesn’t kill the plant, it sure does make it look bad.

I grow another famously mildew-resistant variety, called David, which has stunning pure-white flowers, but garden expert Kerry Ann Mendez from Perennially Yours in New York, told the audience about Robert Poore, another mildew-resistant variety with gorgeous magenta flowers.

Like many other garden phlox varieties, Phlox paniculata Robert Poore grows 3 to 5 feet tall and blooms in late summer. It’s hardy from USDA zones 5 to 9 and stands upright without needing to be staked. Robert Poore and other phloxes are quite attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds. Growing in full sun is best, and good air circulation will also help reduce the possibility of powdery mildew.

2. Certified Pollinator Friendly
The cooperative extension service for Pennsylvania, where I live, will now certify your garden as “Pollinator Friendly.” Penn State Cooperative Extension educator Constance Schmotzer, told the audience about the necessary steps for certifying your yard, including providing food, water and safe habitat for bees and other pollinators.

She stressed the importance of using native plants in your garden’s design (I’m looking forward to adding Monarda fistulosa and Solidago Fireworks to my back perennial bed this season), as a 2002 study at Berkley found that native plants are four times better at attracting pollinators than introduced plant species. Check with your local cooperative extension service to see if they offer certification, as well.

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3. Container Artichokes
In an exuberant and entertaining lecture, a container-gardening expert (whose name I sadly can’t remember) discussed growing artichokes in containers. My ears perked up when he mentioned it and then when he showed images of the plant throughout the season, I nearly jumped out of my seat and shouted “Eureka! Why didn’t I think of that?”

I’ve always wanted to grow artichokes but know that they don’t generally survive the winters here in Pennsylvania—and here he was growing them in New England! He buys transplants from a local nursery that grows them as ornamentals and plants each one per 3- to 5-gallon container. The container artichokes grow throughout the season then are over-wintered an unheated garage with only an occasional watering. Come spring, after the danger of frost has passed, they are brought back out again and fertilized twice a month with kelp emulsion. They form artichokes late that summer. It’s an exciting experiment I can’t wait to try!

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