We’re beginning to see a little bit of sunshine peeking through our West Coast winter overcast. I yearn for spring, but it’s just not quite here yet.
The Forsythia is stretching for the sky. A couple lanky stems impede C’s access to the driver’s car door, so I’m pruning them back when a thought occurs to me: These bare stems might give us an early spring if I bring them indoors.
It’s easy. Just a vase, some water & a spot in some indirect light. After a few days, the tiny buds begin to plump & even show some colour. It’s promising!
A few days after that — blossoms! Oh, JOY! 🙂
It’s like magic. A patch of sunshine inside the house — even when there’s an unexpected skiff of snow outside.
It’ll be a full month before the shrub near the driveway explodes into brilliant yellow blooms announcing to all that spring is upon us in the Pacific Northwest. Bring it on!
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.