HIST: SPEC: January Bloom: Iris pallida in Richmond VA
On the third of this month I wrote to this list:
<<For some time now on my walk I have been watching a stalk that emerged
a streetside planting of bearded iris rhizomes[ . . .] Today, the bud began
to open and, as I had surmised, it is clearly Iris pallida, or something
pretty closely related.
Blooming at a height of three feet, on a straight stem with two very short
branches, no visible PBF, wholly scarious spathes, the plant has put forth
apparently undamaged lavender blossom with a beard conspicuously tipped
yellow. There is a mild fragrance of grapes.
- - - - -
And I thought perhaps someone might be interested in the rest of this story.
It has a twist, you see, namely that the aforementioned is not the only
clump of Iris pallida blooming in the area. Let us agree to call it Iris pallida
in a conversational sort of way, just for the nonce. I have found two more
within a mile of here.
I returned to clump on Monument Avenue, which had produced a second stalk,
and took a picture of the first faded bloom, assuming it was likely to be the
plant's final hurrah.
Then life intervened, and I was unable to visit again until several days
later, when I discovered two fully developed buds showing color.
The weather held nicely until Wednesday, but then the forecast was for
temperatures in the lower twenties. I decided to cut the stalk, which was growing
in the public verge, and bring it home. This I did in the early evening,
with temperatures just above freezing.
As I write, it is January 12, and the stalk is in a vase on my dining room
table. It measures thirty seven inches from base to the bottom of the terminal
blossom. Two fine flowers are open, and two more buds show color. I've
arranged a winter landscape in its honor with small vases of camellias, winter
honeysuckle, daphne, and pansies.
I hope to get another photo, but the only digital camera to which I have
access is a primitive one, and sometimes uncooperative. If I manage anything
useful, I shall send it to John Jones that it may be posted, if feasible.
Now, the other two instances of bloom to which I referred are these:
On the south side of Floyd Avenue, above The Boulevard, a substantial
residential street which runs perpendicular to Monument Avenue, I found a clump in
front of a turn of the century stone house. One stalk was up, and there was
one undistorted blossom, with a good bud alongside. I doubt there is anything
Also: On the east side of a brick house on Nansemond Street, two blocks from
my home, is a line of Iris pallida, sorely in need of division. Late in the
fall someone laid on the proverbial six inches of mulch. There I saw a half
dozen stalks with numerous buds, shorter than the stalk on Monument Avenue,
but with taller foliage. The cold clearly got these, as a couple of the stalks
There is no reason to think these plants are the same clone.
Some incidental information which may be apposite:
I think the earliest I've seen Iris pallida bloom in these parts was in
March, this in a forward season. I've never heard of it reblooming, as such.
Neither Dykes nor the BIS book speak of winter bloom. I thought the plant was
considered more or less winter dormant, indeed Dykes suggests it does not
behave like a warm weather plant even in warm climates.That said, the definition
of the species is pretty murky.
I am not noticing much else blooming out of season this year. The sasanquas
are about spent, hellebores are blooming, I have not yet seen any crocuses,
but I've noticed one daffodil bud. True, the cydonia is blooming, and there
are a few blossoms open on forsythias, but these open whenever there are a few
So has anyone seen this sort of thing elsewhere? Am I the last to notice?
What about in California? Phil Edinger told me that Iris pallida was not as
widely found in California as it is in the east, with the exception of some
wine producing areas to which it was first carried by Italian immigrants who
came to work with the vines.
Richmond VA USA USDA Zone 7b, Urban
Longitude 77 Degrees, 25 Minutes West, Latitude 37 Degrees, 32 Minutes North
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