Recently I entertained a group of charming American garden enthusiasts in my garden. Many of them were intrigued by my sisyrinchiums and were unfamiliar with them. Perhaps they are not widely available to buy in the States, although I think they are native to America. It is a large genus including both herbaceous and alpine plants. They are part of the iris family and have fleshy roots arising from rhizomes. Many of them seed around so enthusiastically that they can become a nuisance. The most commonly known one is Sisyrinchium striatum which will seed to produce large groups . It has iris-like leaves and creamy yellow flowers.
Thinking about sisyrinchiums reminded me of a lovely planting I saw on a garden visit a few years ago. I can’t even remember where the garden was, but I was really taken with it and filed it away in my mind for future use. Trawling through my photographs I found a picture of the garden that had taken my eye.
I am going to borrow the idea and plant up a new bed with a ribbon of strappy- leaved plants edging it. The blue flowers edging the path in the photograph are alpine sisyrinchiums. The plants in my new bed will include Sisyrinchium striatum, some irises which I am growing from seed, (all children of Cedric Morris irises,) and Libertia grandiflora like those in the photograph. Here is a libertia with the lovely dark Persicaria ‘Red Dragon’ which Cathy from Rambling in the Garden blog kindly gave me.
To the left of the Sisyrinchium striatum in the first picture is a variegated one called ‘Aunt May’. This doesn’t seed about but it is very pretty. Here it is in my garden. The winter frosts blacken some of the leaves, this one needs tidying up a bit.
I have already chosen the spot for this new bed. There is already a Mount Etna Broom, Genista aetnensis here and a very unusual pine tree. I have an Abutilon vitifolium which would look lovely here.
In the greenhouse I have a very rare Echium webbii grown from seed by my green -fingered friend. Echium webbii is rather tender but it is spectacular in flower so it can be molly-coddled in the greenhouse for another year and then I will risk it down here in this sheltered part of the garden.
This is the spot earmarked for the new bed on the left. Don’t you think that all that boring old lawn is a waste of space? And I prefer to have as many trees as possible safely ensconced in large beds. The Pianist is like Attila the Hun when he gets on his ride-on mower. I have already had at least six rare trees succumb to his enthusiasm. I seem to remember reading somewhere that Attila the Hun once said: ‘There where I have passed, the grass will never grow again’. Here in my garden, for grass read , trees. See that hole in the grass? It once contained a rare Polstead Black Cherry. Still I mustn’t complain, my Mower of Grass and Slayer of Trees is a treasure and an absolute lamb when he’s not on the mower. And I have learnt a good way of sealing up the wounds of trees that aren’t terminally injured with candle wax.
Some of the smaller sisyrinchiums can be invasive but so far mine are very well behaved. I grow them in gravel in the new Mediterranean garden. They include a pure white one called ‘Iceberg’ which closes its eyes when the sun goes in.
And this little dear with sky blue flowers called appropriately enough ‘Stripey’.
This one is rather unusual, it is called ‘Quaint and Queer’.
Until my sisyrinchiums were commented on by my visitors I had rather overlooked them . Now I am all fired up with ideas to feature them in my new bed which will be next year’s project. It is lovely to look at other gardens and get the germ of an idea. My next year’s bed will not be a copy of the one I saw, that would be boring. I shall use it as a starting point. After I have spent a few months mulling it over, it will probably turn out quite unlike anything I am thinking about just now. That is how projects evolve in the mind, and what fun it is. But for now I am going to concentrate on maintenance, I have just finished a new area which I will post about later in the summer.
But I will be looking out for some different sisyrinchiums, they are charming. I really covet Sisyrinchium ‘Raspberry’. And I believe there is a new lavender- coloured hybrid called ‘Marion’, I have to have that. I shall see if I can find Sisyrinchium ‘Devon Skies’ which is a lovely blue. There is a similar blue one called ‘Californian Skies’. Either of these would do for an edging for my new bed. I had better get busy and grow some from seed.