Back in a British summer dominated by the London Olympics and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, red-white-and-blue planting schemes - especially in the pattern of the British Union Jack flag - were everywhere and petunias were the favorite plants to use. But a visit to the UK headquarters of the Ball Horticultural Company, Ball Colegrave in Oxfordshire, which always reveals plenty of interesting plants and plant stories, showed how disappointing petunias can be if the weather is poor – and also showed an unexpected plant thriving in a red-white-and-blue flag planting.
On the day I was there, a day of both sunshine and downpour, Petunia ‘Easy Wave Union Flag’ (above, click to elnarge) was a disaster. Not one flower was open on the flag – not one! Not much of a celebration. “Powerful weather tolerance” it says in the catalogue. Hmmm…
But right alongside was a bright and sparkling flag – of annual phlox... Phlox drummondii ‘21st Century’ in the same red-white-and-blue (above, click to elnarge). It looked absolutely wonderful - before, during, and after the rain..
In dependably sunny climates, of course, Wave petunias are splendid. But in less predictable conditions these ‘21st Century’ phlox, the first F1 hybrid annual phlox and new last year, are well worth growing.