Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What's blooming now - Iris

In Greek mythology, Iris is the daughter of a minor sea-god and the air-nymph Electra. She is said to have golden wings, and to travel on the rainbow while carrying messages from the gods. She waters the clouds, perhaps to bring rain and rainbows, and her symbol is the rainbow.

I remembered this after we visited Arco-Iris sandwich shop in Tampa - because in Spanish "arco iris" means "rainbow.

And right now, a rainbow is blooming in my garden. Our front yard, shaded by ancient coast live oaks, is planted with low shrubs and perennials suitable for the dry shade the oaks thrive in. Among these are clumps of Iris douglasiana, and its many offspring, Pacific Coast Hybrid iris.

Douglas's iris has a small, clear blue flower with narrow petals. Its throat has a blaze of white touched with yellow, and shows intricate blue veins. It's native to Oregon and Northern California, but it's happy here in my coastal Southern California garden.

Douglas's iris readily hybridizes with other western American species, and has given rise to many beautiful variations in a rainbow of colors, ranging from pure white to yellow, to purple and many shades in between. I've seen some wonderful mauvey-cocoa shades, or tan, or bi-color.

Here in a Santa Monica drought-tolerant planting, a deep red-violet iris is planted near the glossy red succulent aeonium, and feathery bronze fennel.

They are easy to grow from seed, too - in my Seattle garden a dozen or so seedlings bloomed the following spring after being set out.

Some specialty nurseries sell named varieties, and these will be plants selected for their excellent features - color, shape or habit. But you can find unnamed beauties in regular garden centers, or you can grow them from seed.

In my garden, they're an excellent companion for California natives and other drought-tolerant plants. Here a clump of blue iris grows along the stone path, next to a western Columbine, setting off the bright yellow of its flower. Beyond, a specimen of acanthus has sent up its bloom-spike. Clusters of a selected variety of heuchera, with marbled and patterned leaves, are planted among the iris, adding a nice contrast of foliage. Later they'll put up their delicate flowers.

Here, in another garden, Heuchera's frothy pikes surround a white PCH iris, in an area planted with ferns. Sorry about the bleached-out quality of the iris in this photo, but you can see the pretty heuchera and its leaves.

Deeper in the shade, clary sage, with its large textured leaves and deep violet blossoms will come into bloom in the next weeks.

This sage spreads by runners in the rich understory compost of leaves beneath the oaks. The stems and flower calyces of clary sage are a deep maroon.

And now here's the pathway to the door. Won't you stop in?


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

And now here's the pathway to the door. Won't you stop in?
Posted by Aunt Snow at 7:43 PM

If I ever escape from Ohio, I Shirley Will. (Don't worry, I'll call first.)

Aunt Snow said...

Thunder, you would be completely welcome!

Gilly said...

What a lovely walk along your path! I just love that yellow iris! I saw those little irises last Sunday, but alas, I don't have any here.

I do have a bronze fennel, though, but I think it would be happier down in the Californian sun!

®osadimaggio63 said...

Hello Aunt Snow,
stupendi fiori colorati...
la Primavera รจ veramente arrivata !
Buona giornata :-)

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Our front yard, shaded by ancient coast live oaks, is planted with low shrubs and perennials suitable for the dry shade the oaks thrive in.

Friends don't let friends plant annuals!

The garden is simply gorgeous!

Tristan Robin Blakeman said...


I'm green with envy ... and right now, that's the only thing green in these parts

phd in yogurtry said...

Your gardens are beautiful! I love the flowers and plants along the stone walk. We've got a few purple Iris's .. Ires? Irisi? They are such a stunning flower.

Pumpkin Delight said...

One of these days I'm gonna have a garden that looks like that. My problem is I want it to be beautiful but don't want to do the work it takes to do it.