I have loved phlox ever since I was a small child, and I know why. It’s because when I was growing up at the Manse in Queensborough there was a healthy row of it growing all along the fence of our neighbours across the road, Will and Bella Holmes. The flowers had such a lovely delicate yet earthy scent; walking past, I loved to stop and bury my nose in them. And they were such pretty colours! Pink and red and fuchsia and mauve, all set off by some white ones. Whenever I see phlox anywhere now I have to stop and admire them and inhale the familiar scent.
Here’s kind of a funny thing, though: when I was a kid, I always called the flowers at the Holmses’ Sweet William. Did someone at some point tell me that’s what they were, incorrectly? I have no idea. But many years ago I somehow or other discovered that the plant I’d always called Sweet William is in fact phlox.
Or is it? Aha – the plot thickens. In starting to write this post, I thought about the Sweet William error of my younger days, and looked up some pictures of Sweet William. Well! They look an awful lot like phlox! Just a bit more uneven around the edges of the petals, as far as I can see. Very similar beautiful colours; tall, like phlox. Now I’m beginning to wonder whether the ones from my childhood really were Sweet William after all.
Anybody got any thoughts on this? I know that the flowers of my childhood and the phlox I’ve smelled in more recent times have the same scent. That would suggest that the Holmeses had phlox. But does Sweet William have a similar smell, I wonder?
At any rate, I plan to have one or the other (maybe both!) at the Manse. If we can find some vintage fencing of the type that once ran across the front of the yard, I can plant phlox – or Sweet William – all along it. And maybe small children will stop and admire our flowers, and breathe in the wonderful scent. That would be lovely to see.