Phlomis cashmeriana is the last in a series of five entries featuring plants from UBC Botanical Garden’s newly released book: The Jade Garden – New and Notable Plants from Asia.
Every gardener I know loves Phlomis. There is something about this genus’s soft, fuzzy look that gives it universal appeal. Phlomis cashmeriana is almost unknown in North American gardens, perhaps due in part to the long standing reliance on Phlomis fruticosa and Phlomis russelliana, both large yellow-flowered plants from the Mediterranean. For something quite different yet equally easy to grow, P. cashmeriana, or Kashmir sage, is an obvious choice. Technically classified as a subshrub, it performs as a woody-based herbaceous perennial at UBCBG. It hails from the drier, western Himalayas and Kashmir, as its species name suggests, so it is best suited to sunny and well-drained garden sites.
Phlomis cashmeriana has plenty of appeal as both a focal point in a dry border (it performs best here in the E.H. Lohbrunner Alpine Garden), and as a mingler and a softener among flashier drought-tolerant subjects. Like other Phlomis, it is a natural for the xeriscape garden, and is already being recommended by Denver Botanic Garden. Emerging suddenly into the spring sun with intensely silver and hairy new leaves, it quickly establishes its handsome architecture. By summer it puts on about 60cm of growth, although it can reach 80cm or more in favourable gardens. In this exuberant, grey-green mass are many sturdy, white-felted stems that bear, in the peak of summer, several verticillasters (whorled clusters) of exotic lilac-purple flowers.
This plant, with its subtle colour combinations of silver mixed with pink and purple, calms the senses and invites our touch, while standing uniquely apart from other dazzlingly bright summer flowers. After a few weeks, flowers finish blooming and stems may be cut back, leaving a superb foliage plant, untouched by insect or disease problems, for the rest of the growing season. Stems also may be left on, providing textural interest into the fall and winter seasons. This Asian perennial is both showy and not easily bothered by extremes of climate. Its appeal centers around its strong form, combined with a touch of the exotic.
Interested to learn more about The Jade Garden? Visit the publisher’s web page about the book.