Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Yellow eyed wonder of the Andes

I suspect I first got this plant nearly 30 years ago. I vaguely recall that Paul Maslin (my best friend of my twenties and my mentor) grew it from seed and that it may have ultimately been one of the many gems introduced by Rolf Fiedler, a German gardener who lived in Argentina. It has grown continuously in my gardens since then, although occasionally the numbers dwindle. I think it was Pat Hayward, now CEO of Plant Select, who got Little Valley to grow it and subsequently Country Lane nursery took it up (I think Little Valley dropped it)...and abruptly three years ago I realized I no longer had a single fan of it left in my garden at home. I looked wistfully around the botanic gardens, and strangely enough it had vanished there too.

How a plant that could almost become a weed at one point disappears utterly amazes me, but it happens again and again. You can imagine my delight when I saw that there were flats and flats of it at Country Lane. I brought a whole flat home and tucked them here and there (this must have been two years ago) and this spring they have rewarded me with bouquets of those immense salvers with the brown etching inside...I have promised myself never to let it dwindle again!

What is this yellow eyed wonder of the Andes? Sisyrinchium macrocarpum, as far as I know. (It's been put in a number of other genera by various workers, but I think we can ignore that until things truly settle down botanically). I saw many stunning Sisyrinchiums in the Andes, but not this one. As far as I'm concerned, it's a bread and butter alpine everyone should grow. And once again, I shall have tons of seed to share!


  1. Funny - I just tore out several seedlings of this wondering if anyone would want them... It is a beauty. I think I originally got it from Paul's garden, too.
    Thanks for posting!

  2. Funny also that the whole genus is known as blue-eyed grass even though yellows, purples, whites and mauves can be found in the genus - not to mention that none are grasses. Would that it were possible to grow some of the other yellow blue-eyed grasses: S. striatum, S. brachypus, S. palmifolium, and S. convolutum. The yellow S. californicum is possible.

  3. We have grown Sisyrinchium striatum at Botanic Gardens, where it is hardy two winters out of three. Even the winters it comes through the foliage is blackened and pretty unsightly in the spring.

    Sisyrichium aff. arenarium from Beaver Creek Nursery (or is it Mt. Tahoma?) is another Andean sp. an a stunner with pale yellow starry flowers. It has produced a big clump over the last few years. I intend to divide it....soon...before I regret it!


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