can you do with a blackberry lily? The answer is,
anything you want. All gardens are made better with the
addition of this persevering heirloom iris. You thought
I said blackberry lily, and now I am referring to it as
iris. Yes, Virginia, it has always looked like an iris
from the standpoint of foliage and recently its
scientific name has been changed from Belamcanda
chinensis to Iris domestica.
have had great fun over the name change with Stan Gray,
our tall bearded iris guru and sibling of the famous
northeast Grayís Iris clan. As he tirelessly seeks to
find the most suitable bearded iris for our torrid heat
and humidity, I simply point to this historical iris and
comment that it has no problems and blooms all summer.
He mutters something, and we part ways,me normally
it does bloom and bloom, and has ever since George
Washington was growing it at Mount Vernon along with the
settlers in Williamsburg, Va. But that is recent history
compared to Chinese literature dating it as a medicinal
back to 25 AD.
you have never grown this tough perennial, you may
wonder why it is called a blackberry lily when indeed it
is an iris. The reason is that after the bloom fades the
resulting fruit and seed look just like a blackberry
ripe for the picking. These seeds are definitely viable
which is precisely how the plant made its way from China
to Europe in the 1730s.
the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens in Savannah, Ga.,
we use the blackberry lily in our cottage garden where
plants like Joe Pye weed, Golden Lace patrinia,
Limelight hydrangea and Brazilian button flower are in
close proximity. Donít think you have to live in
Savannah to grow it. It is cold hardy over a huge range
from zones 5-10.
is the yellow form with freckles and produces a massive
stalk of blooms. The flowers only last a day, but the
bloom period last throughout the summer. The freckles or
spots give reference to its other common name, which is
blackberry lily is available in various shades of
yellow, orange, red, pink and coral and every mix in
between, it seems. Though grandmaís cottage might seem
the most appropriate location over the years, I have
seen them in dreamy well-planned meadows with a host of
wildflowers, including the colorful monarda or beebalm.
They would also fit in a tropical garden grown in a
sweep of color with bananas and elephant ears.
perform best with at least 6 hours of sunlight per day.
The soil should be fertile and organically rich. Tight,
compacted clay yields an inferior plant. Amend the soil
with 3-4 inches of organic matter, and till to a depth
of 8 to 10 inches. While they like moisture they will
abhor wet winter soil, so the improvement for drainage
will pay dividends.
centers that maintain a good selection of perennials
will normally have the plants. Container grown stock can
be planted any time, really, but you may want to shop
early to get your plants. This is considered a
short-lived perennial, but letting your seeds fall to
the ground and sprout will generally make sure you
always have plants.
Washington grew them and probably your grandparents as
well, if they were gardeners. Consider stepping back in
time this spring and incorporating this great heirloom
iris in your landscape too. Youíll be glad you did.