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Marjorie Harris

Phlox holds a special place in the early summer garden, with blooms that last for weeks standing above clumps of lance-shaped foliage.

They're just about to come out in my own garden, but with all the wet and miserable weather this year, I've been obsessing over fungal diseases, especially powdery mildew. And while I'm a big fan of Phlox paniculata 'David,' even this white-bloomed mildew-resistant variety can get powdery muck on its foliage.

Enter Phlox 'Minnie Pearl,' a cultivar with parents native to North America that promises to be free of fungal diseases. Spreading to a tidy 30-by-60-centimetre clump in a few years, 'Minnie Pearl' makes a great plant for edges or a container set into the garden. Its white blooms are streaked with a faint blush on the sides as they open to reveal a pink centre.

Phlox do well in either full sun or dappled shade. To plant, dig a hole larger than the container but no deeper, tease apart the roots so they are not bound together and carefully set the plant into the ground.

Backfill with the soil from the hole, tamp down to eliminate air pockets and top-dress with compost. This is a classic method for planting perennials – don't just plunk things in the ground and hope they'll survive on their own. With a bit of TLC at the start, most perennials will probably bloom the same year you plant them. Within a couple of years, they'll really put on weight and perform superbly.

Because the tones in 'Minnie Pearl' are so subtle, plant it somewhere visible such as near a deck or patio or in a pot. Its sweet scent never overwhelms. This Zone 5 plant pairs nicely with Lespedeza, another fantastic perennial with contrasting foliage and magenta pink blooms.

Get Phlox 'Minnie Pearl' at garden centres such as Fiesta Gardens in Toronto (www.fiestafarms.ca), where it costs $15.95.