James A. Baggett

Fool for Phlox

It wasn’t until midmorning that garden photographer Richard Felber and I were finally able to take a break from photographing phlox. The last of the morning mist had burned off, and the sun was high and strong in the clear Vermont sky. This was a few years ago and we were in the village of East Hardwick, producing a story on the annual Phlox Festival at Perennial Pleasures Nursery. Judith Kane, co-owner of the nursery and a cheeky British ex-pat, offered to make Richard and me breakfast. All morning she’d been hard at work in the kitchen, baking scones to serve with her famous afternoon tea to visitors eager to witness some 30 different varieties of Phlox paniculata in full regalia. Glad to be off our feet, my friend Richard and I relaxed on a private patio of a three-story 1840s brick farmhouse surrounded by fragrant stands of garden phlox, sipping strong coffee. With unflagging hospitality, Judith served us a delightful omelet and fresh scones with clotted cream and blackberry jam…and big, beautiful chunks of ripe red tomatoes drizzled in fig vinegar. I felt downright civilized—and intoxicated with the very best of the season. That vintage garden print (above) reminds me of that morning among the phlox. One of my favorite phlox, ‘Peppermint Twist’, looks great in my front hell strip and the neighborhood kids love to search for it every summer. After all, it does look downright confectionary.

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