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Iris Danfordiae Experiment: Part Two


Last year, I tried an experiment with Iris danfordiae; I planted it deeper. (If you want to read more about why I did that, look here.)

The idea was to see if this would make my Iris danfordiae more perennial. I’d love any flower that comes up in February. But the tininess, the scent, and the detailed markings  (a landing strip for pollinators) make Iris danfordiae even more desirable to me. (I’ve elaborated on why I love it, and how I use it in the house and garden, here.)


While Iris danfordiae is one of the cheaper bulbs you can buy (if you buy in quantity especially), I have kind of a thing about getting bulbs to perennialize. Yes, it has something to do with plant-greed: I don’t think I’ll get away with pretending otherwise. I’d love to have scads and scads of different kinds of bulbs, and I can’t go buying them all every year.

But it also has to do with something else. If I can understand a bulb well enough to get it to come back every year, to come back and flower and make more bulbs, then I’m really starting to understand that bulb. (It’s the same with people: knowing what makes them come back, what makes them flourish, what makes them spread themselves – those are ways of really understanding someone.)

So, for reasons sacred and profane, I had dreams. Dreams of masses of returning Iris danfordiae spreading themselves out and becoming a permanent feature in my garden.

Are these dreams coming true?

Well, maybe. And then again, maybe not. I’m not sure.

The Iris danfordiae are coming out maybe a little later than they usually do, and there don’t seem to be too many of them.  They seem to be coming up differently, too. They always have short stems, but it seems to me that the deep burial has made them sit on top of the soil like a decapitated flower floating on thick water.


On the other hand, we’ve had a lot of rain for the past few weeks, so the dim light could have shortened the stems. Rain could also have slowed everything down. Maybe what I’m seeing now are only the first brave volunteers. Maybe in a week or two, I’ll see scads of bright golden Iris danfordiae all over the place.

And maybe I’ll just see these few vanguard flowers, while the rest meditate, deep, deep in the soil.



{ 9 comments… add one }

  • lostlandscape(James) February 17, 2010, 10:11 pm

    You’re clearly doing something right when it comes to understanding these iris. I also appreciate that trying to get into the plant’s little “brain” is also a great way to understand the lands and climates they come from. I like the sense of connection that I get from realizing that a plant from parts of Turkey or Africa or Australia might find my garden’s climate to be close to that of where it came from. Here’s wishing you success next year in getting more of these to return to your garden.

  • Edith Hoped February 18, 2010, 4:36 am

    Dear PB, I completely sympathise with what you are saying here. Sometimes it does not seem to matter what one does, whether one religiously follows ‘the book’ or whether one does one’s own thing, it all becomes a matter of chance.

    I really hope that more will come up for you. As you know, I now keep mine in pots in the Alpine House where I can be reasonably sure of success. I suspect that the irises, along with many other similar plants, have not liked the prolonged wet.

  • Sylvia (England) February 18, 2010, 5:47 am

    Pomona, I haven’t seen any signs of mine yet, though I have Iris reticulata, they usually flower about now. I need to find a better home for them! I bought Clematis Freckles last year and it has flowered all winter – did you have to leave yours behind when you moved?

    Best wishes Sylvia (England)

  • Meredith February 19, 2010, 4:19 pm

    They do look a little strange, just flowers and no stem — yet such gorgeous flowers! (For some reason I thought the stems needed to be above ground to partake of the sun after the blooms are spent, that that’s how bulbs get their energy for the next year’s flower. But I may have just made that up, lacking an explanation for some of the ugly bulb foliage that remains after the early flowering.)

    I think it is so fun that you are experimenting this way, Pomona. I, too, am greedy. My husband delights in calling me so and I accept the adjective cheerfully, especially when it comes to beauty and sensual delights in the garden. I am rooting for many more Iris to come up for you — these are just the outliers on the far edge of the bell curve, I’m sure!

  • Pomona Belvedere February 20, 2010, 4:36 pm

    James, yes I agree, it’s fun to compare other climates to mine and see what plants might be happy in my garden. I got on bulbs in the first place because I was looking for low-water plants; the logical place to go was to another climate that doesn’t have summer rains. Ruksans says I. danfordiae is found in the mountains of Turkey, though of course it may also be in other places.

    Edith, thanks for you good wishes for increased irises! I think it’s likely you’re right about them not liking the rain.

    Sylvia, sadly I had to cut back my “Freckles”, but I have hopes of resurrection. Glad yours did so nicely for you; aren’t they beautiful flowers?

    Meredith, while bulbs do some photosynthesis through the stems, mostly it’s through the leaves – which in these early bulbs come up after the flower and not before. It is fun to experiment, isn’t it? And I think you’re right, being greedy for beauty and sensual delight in the garden is actually an asset!

  • Cyd February 22, 2010, 10:07 am

    The yellow really shouts Spring! They are lovely and I hope more do bloom for you too.

  • Helen February 22, 2010, 1:16 pm

    I havent seen that iris before, it looks lovely. I am trying to get iris reticulata to establish in my garden so I can understand your efforts

  • Noel Kingsbury April 4, 2010, 11:04 am

    spoke to Jim Archibald about this plant just last week ““The danfordiae in cultivation is utterly, utterly different to the cheap clones sold by th eDutch” he says, Its a more intense yellow apparently. Like a lot of dutch bulbs its grown as a one shot wonder.

  • Phillip October 24, 2015, 12:27 pm

    Hi Daisy, this is the first time I have grown Zinnias.The first plant rotted at the top for some unwkonn reason.This second plant has bloomed with the tough red flower.I tried growing Purple Prince Zinnias but none of the seeds germinated in the wet conditions… Hi Sylvia,I am suprised it has flowered.The weather has been warm but very wet through much of July and August, with occasional sunshine. It warms up in late April or May here in Yorkshire.This is just one tough plant :)

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