Blooming now

Jim McKenney
Wed, 19 Jul 2006 08:30:52 PDT
Mary Sue, in reporting her joy over the re-blooming of Calochortus weedii
(ant that's a stunningly beautiful species, Mary Sue) has touched on
something to which all of us as gardeners can relate. When we buy a bulb and
it goes on to bloom, that's nice. But when we grow one from seed and it
blooms, that engenders a completely different level of satisfaction. And
when we buy a bulb, watch it go into decline, but then eventually reverse
itself and bloom - well, that too provides a very special sense of

I had that experience this year when a plant of the xiphium hybrid iris
'Bronze Beauty' bloomed. This is a readily available plant, and inexpensive,
too. But these so-called Dutch iris are never common in our gardens here in
the middle Atlantic states. They must be planted by the hundreds of
thousands each year, but they have never become common garden plants. 

And it's not hard to point to a probable reason: they need hot, dry summers.
The heat we can provide in spades, but dry summers are not our style. Dutch
iris left in the ground year after year tend to "disappear". In my
experience, those which don't disappear and show up again typically don't

In an effort to test the "they need dry hot summers" hypothesis, several
years ago I planted a dozen bulbs of 'Bronze Beauty' in a raised bed. The
following spring I got a nasty surprise: only one or two of them had
survived the winter. Winter hardiness of bulbs planted in the ground has
never been an issue here. But plants of any kind in raised beds are often a
gamble here during the winter. For instance, very few of a handful of Crocus
korolkowii survived that same winter in that same bed. 

Since so few of them survived the winter, and those which did did not go on
to bloom, I more or less forgot about those iris. 

This raised bed is covered from late May until September. During the summer,
because the glass is only six or so inches above the soil, it gets hot under
the glass, sometimes hot enough to kill the weeds. 

Now fast forward a few years. After not having seen any trace of the iris
for several years, I spotted a bit of distinct color in that bed this year.
There was a plant of Iris 'Bronze Beauty' in full bloom! 

That plant of 'Bronze Beauty' is mine as no newly purchased bulb will ever
be. I earned it. There is every reason to think that it's now here to stay,
or at least as much so as anything else in the garden. I've learned how to
grow it, and in the garden of life knowledge is the most beautiful bloom of

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7, where it cooled off last
night enough to prompt us to turn off the air conditioning and open the
windows - and let in the scent of the lilies.  


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