The Dry Garden: Pacific coast irises

Posted on | April 8, 2011 | 5 Comments

Pacific coast iris and blue-eyed grass. Photo: Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden

One of the most common questions during California’s wildflower season is: “Is it too late to plant?” If you’re working from seed, yes. The lupines, clarkia, poppies and sunflowers coming into bloom now germinated last fall. It is only by the capturing of residual autumn warmth and early winter rain that they put down roots needed for a vigorous spring bloom.

However, the window to plant spring wildflowers does remain open in April for our native Pacific coast irises. This window is kept jammed open partly by the nursery trade, which often doesn’t release the plants until March — not ideal, but possible because irises are perennials. Although they do produce seeds, they grow from rhizomes, or tubers, that produce annual sets of roots.

If we want newly bought irises to go in the ground this year, we need to jump — fast. Unless the weather changes, it’s still cool enough. Moreover, spring shopping affords a benefit rare among natives: the chance to see at least some of the young irises in flower on store shelves.

Click here to keep reading The Dry Garden in the Los Angeles Times.


5 Responses to “The Dry Garden: Pacific coast irises”

  1. Breathing Treatment (Brent)
    April 8th, 2011 @ 11:44 am

    Thanks for penning my favorite sentence of the week. “Next to a Pacific Coast iris, a bearded iris can look like Liberace parading through a Ralph Lauren catalog.”

  2. Eric Lindstrom
    April 8th, 2011 @ 9:12 pm

    Lovely plants and a lovely shot. Did you take the photo by any chance?

  3. EmilyGreen
    April 8th, 2011 @ 9:18 pm

    Thanks Brent and Eric. Alas, no, I did not take the shot. I should have put a caption on it. It’s from Rancho Santa Ana Botanic garden, where they combined the Pacificas with the iris cousin blue-eyed grass. Some of the shots in the Times piece are mine, but my new garden looks more like gopher madness than the shot above.

  4. Connie Day
    April 20th, 2011 @ 3:13 pm

    Emily, yesterday I found the article about your garden 10 years later, on my cell phone. I couldn’t get a good look at the photos so am looking for it today on my computer. Can’t find it. Could you please give me the link? I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading your pieces. Thanks.

  5. EmilyGreen
    April 20th, 2011 @ 5:04 pm

    Hi Connie: I suspect you might be looking for this article on leaving the garden,
    or there is a Flickr photo set showing the progression in building it. The link to that is:
    Hope this helps.

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