One of my favourite spring ephemerals is the lesser-known Yellow Flowering Onion. It’s native to southern Europe (Mediterranean), but it’s a tough little bulb that rates at zone 3. It also grows well here, in the Pacific Northwest.
The strappy leaves appear in spring. They look quite a bit like bluebell leaves but have a faint oniony odour if bruised. (Ditto for the bulb). Once the flower buds come out, it’s easy to see the difference.
Alium moly luteum blooms as an umbel of flowers at the top of the stem, similar to other onions. It typically reaches mid-calf rather than knee or thigh height of the large purple alliums.
At first, I figured the short Allium moly luteum was best at the front of the border. Unfortunately, the foliage dies back shortly after the bloom does. As it’s declining, the leaf is still feeding the bulb for next year’s flower production. It’s better to let that foliage fade naturally. But that looks pretty sad.
These days, I’m shifting some bulbs further into the border & mixing with asters. The hope is the emerging aster foliage catches attention as the allium fades. If it works out, it’ll mean we get 2 seasons of bloom from relatively the same location.
Here are a few other reasons why Lily Leek is a keeper:
Our neighbourhood deer have never touched it. (I guess Bambi doesn’t want onion breath.)
The bulbs survive our incredibly arid summers & very wet winters.
It seems just as happy in dappled, dry shade as in full sun.
It’s basically NO maintenance, if situated somewhere that other plants distract from the onion’s fading foliage.
Allium moly luteum looks lovely blooming alongside red hot pokers, California lilac, foxglove & peony (other drought-tolerant & deer-reistant plants).
With that much going for it, Golden Galic is assured of its space in our garden.
Most gardeners aren’t plant shopping in winter when this iris looks its best.
Fetid in a name just puts folks off.
It’s sad, really. Stinking Iris is a harsh moniker – – uncalled for, in my humble opinion. Apparently, if you stomp on a clump, the crushed leaves reek of spoiled roast beef. I’ve gardened around it for several years now & have yet to detect any offending odour. Iris foetidissima is very welcome in our garden.
I mean, it’s not the first plant I’d buy for a new garden, but it’s a great supporting actor.
It’s evergreen. & year-round structure is coveted in December when pretty much everything else has collapsed to the ground.
It happily handles the dry conditions under a shady tree where few plants survive.
Our hungry neighbourhood deer leave it strictly alone. 🙂 & it’s getting harder to find something they won’t eat around here!
The flower is easy to miss. Pale lavender petals open in June & are overshadowed by other, more boisterous blooms. It’s pretty but not spectacular, like so many other iris. I reckon it’d be perfect potted up on a north-facing balcony where little else gives four seasons of interest. Right?
But don’t be too quick to tidy those flower stems! They morph into heavy seedheads that curl open in autumn with the actual show. 🙂
Those bright orange berries are just so funky looking! & it’s so gratifying to have interest through fall & winter.
The seed doesn’t seem to appeal to the birds – – and it turns out to be toxic to cats, dogs & humans… even cattle will sicken if they chew on the roots. So, Scarlet Berry Iris might be an issue if I plant it on the woodland edge of pastureland. I’m surprised cows would take a nibble when the deer clearly don’t.
Iris foetidissima‘s native range is southern Europe & northern Africa. I’ve never heard of it going astray in North America. Still, it’s considered invasive in parts of New Zealand & Australia. I found some berries dropped onto the lawn edge so I tucked them in the soil around the plants. I’d be happy a bigger show next year.
The simple addition of the word ‘Common’ before a plant name seems to make it less desirable, doesn’t it?
Who would want a common plant in a garden? Don’t we all want flash – bling — the unusual? In truth, the backbone of a great many gardens is made up of ‘Common ‘ plants. It’s the common plants that enhance the flash & bling of unusual ones.
Common Snowberry seems an insignificant deciduous shrub, but it has qualities that raise its value in a garden.
‘Common’ basically means: it can grow pretty much anywhere.
Here on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, where our challenge is summer drought & winter wet, Symphoricarpos albus still thrives.
Have you got a steep yard where your hedge struggles because it’s dry at the top of the slope & soggy lower down? Snowberry handles that broad spectrum. It also handles sheering if you’re after a tidy, dense form. AND It supplies a nice cohesive look dotted throughout a mixed hedgerow.
How about that difficult dry, shady patch where it’s tough for plants to survive? Yup, snowberry handles that, too.
It grows well in the feast or famine water supply of bioswales & rain gardens that are so prized for slowing stormwater runoff.
Because its vigorous roots spread via suckers, snowberry is a workhorse in erosion control, which is why it’s also recommended for restoration sites.
Snowberry has unusual fruits.
White berries are not the norm — and the snowberry is even more unusual in that it’s NOT even a berry! It’s a ‘drupe.’ Each fruit contains 2 ‘nutlets’ — just like the fruit of a cherry contains a pit. Cool, eh? How many folks at the garden club can you entertain with that trivia?
Symphoricarpos albus’ bitter drupes persist late into the winter, providing welcome food for birds when other supplies run low.
This small shrub was considered interesting & decorative enough that a couple centuries ago, it was imported by Britain & grown in many fashionable gardens. Side note: It’s become so comfortable there that it spread into their wilderness areas, too! See — it’ll grow pretty much anywhere.
Snowberry is a native plant that welcomes wildlife to the garden.
The diminutive pink flowers in early summer are especially appreciated by native pollinators & other beneficial insects. Both the Anna’s & Rufus hummingbirds compete for access to the blooms.
Deer & other ungulates browse on snowberry, but it isn’t tasty enough to be gorged on as their dessert.
Even in its naked winter state, a Symphoricarpos albus thicket provides protection, food & shelter for small birds & mammals.
I used to think snowberry was a pretty dull little shrub, but I’ve since changed my mind. A couple of years ago, I planted one in our little woodland border. Without any further attention, the snowberry survived last summer’s drought & this year, it bore fruit– several puffy white drupes. 🙂
Now the plan is to introduce it into a couple other challenging spots. The wildlife will be happy if it flourishes. If its vigorous roots spread too far, I’m sure the deer will help keep it in check.