Sunday, February 17, 2013

The first iris: Mrs. Danford's bright gem

long lived clump of Iris danfordiae
 It's not blooming yet. Most years, Iris danfordiae opens its first flowers in early February and we have even had January bloom. But this strange, dry year things are retarded. In fact, I had the hose running around my garden from morning until sunset...It would be hard to convince a Scotsman that we have to water in mid-winter (even the cacti!), but such are the dues for living in a semi-arid climate. So this post will be something of an act of hubris (or stupidity) or both, because not a single iris is poking up yet. But I predict the hundred Iris danfordiae I planted in my blue gramma grass meadow (where a wealth of other bulbs follow on their heels) will be out before long. The bed is hard as a rock much of the year, but many bulbs seem to like it--and it dries out in summer. Iris danfordiae are a bit of a crap shoot in Colorado, but I have read that if they are planted deep enough or where they can "bake" they can become perennial and live to bloom again. For instance, like this big clump was growing in Western Panoramas at Denver Botanic gardens...

Blue gramma grass meadow with Iris danfordiae
 Here is the meadow almost precisely a year ago: you can see the iris dotted about it like the proverbial "pimples on a prairie"--almost all had only one flower. It is so exciting to anticipate this year's flowers: will they all come back. Will many have multiple bloom? Check back in March and I'll add this year's pictures for comparison...surely SOME will come back (I believe I counted all 100 last year...). Perhaps our native prairie is a close equivalent of Anatolia whence this comes?

Iris danfordiae in blue gramma grass meadow
Don't let the pictures fool you--the plant is only a few inches wide and a few across--but despite its petiteness (or perhaps because of it?) this is the jewel of early spring. These first few flowers of the season are such a delight!  Mrs. Danford must have been a fox!

1 comment:

  1. Planting bulbs in a meadow setting is a great idea! Last Fall I planted a new quarter acre meadow and planted about 150 liatris aspera corms that I raised from seed the same year. It's not an early bloomer, but it should give me some first year color.

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