It’s fall planting time in Southern California, and I’m planting phlomis. And it’s deja vu all over again. I like to think that the blog functions at least as a personal resource, a planting reference that at a minimum chronicles successes and failures. (e.g. How many times have I tried to grow asphodels? Four times now?) But it seems my enthusiasm for the constant churn of new plants outpaces any thorough documentation of their ultimate fate in the garden. And as we all know, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Is the definition of garden insanity growing the same plant over and over, expecting a different result? Not necessarily. Different light and soil conditions, air flow and air circulation, or lack thereof, all vary wildly even in a small garden. And then there’s the variables of excessive heat or drought, fall vs. spring planting. So trialing the same plant over and over isn’t as crazy as it sounds. For now I’ll admit to being a tad forgetful, but not crazy.
Take phlomis. I love everything about phlomis for the dry garden, the tidy, corrugated leaves and the nubby, pagoda-like architecture of its blooms. I’ve grown many kinds of these mint family members distributed from China through Eurasia to the Mediterranean: P. italica, P. tuberosa, P. russeliana, P. purpurea and, as of this month, Phlomis lanata again, pictured above, which is one of the smaller kinds. Many have become too large or failed to thrive (such as italica and tuberosa). But haven’t I tried P. lanata before? And, if so, when? And, more importantly, what happened to it?
Phlomis lanata with the fern leaf lavender, Lavandula multifida, February 2014, when I mentioned I was “very excited” to see how this so-called Pygmy Jerusalem Sage performed, and then the documentation pretty much stopped. This lavender is notoriously short-lived, but not the phlomis.
Browsing the back pages, I did uncover that I last planted Phlomis lanata in fall 2013, which was buried in a post of March 2014. But further research this morning into the history of phlomis in the garden brought more questions than answers:
What happened to the Phlomis lanata planted in fall 2013? I would like to speak to someone in charge, please. Who’s in charge of this garden blog anyway?
Were the phlomis a casualty of removing the giant Yucca ‘Margarita,’ which became an enormous, multi-headed hydra the summer it bloomed five times? That demolition was documented on October 15, 2015, a fact I found buried in another Bloom Day post. Thank god for Bloom Days. There’d be no documentary discipline without them. Is that what happened to my phlomis?
April 2014, Yucca ‘Margarita’ with Phlomis lanata at its base.
So a note to future self: Two Phlomis lanata were planted September 2017, with optimal conditions of full sun, good spacing and air circulation. Ditto for a couple Lavandula ‘Silver Anouk.’ My working theory is that these smallish shrubs get buried under the summer growth of grasses, castor bean plants, salvias, etc. A small, treasured golden phlomis from Cistus, ‘Sunningdale Gold,’ only made it through summer because it was protected from overgrowth by a large metal basket.
Phlomis lanata, May 2013, in a local hell strip, with feather grass and Teucrium azureum.
Phlomis purpurea in 2010.
Phlomis purpurea also in 2010, with Xanthosoma ‘Lime Zinger’ stealing its thunder.