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.

Sisyrinchium striatum with iris

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.

Libertia grandiflora

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.

Sisyrinchium striatum ‘Aunt May’

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.

Abutilon vitifolium

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.

Sisyrinchium ‘Iceberg’

And this little dear with sky blue flowers called appropriately enough ‘Stripey’.

Sisyrinchium ‘Stripey’

This one is rather unusual, it is called ‘Quaint and Queer’.

Sisyrinchium ‘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.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to Sisyrinchiums.

  1. Oh Liz, I have some Blue Eyed Grass here and there, it is best described as ephemeral.Though yours is lovely. Glad you met some nice Americans.

    • Chloris says:

      Blue-eyed grass! So that’s what you call it, I wonder why.
      All the Americans I have met have been lovely. Except for your appalling Orange Dictator, and I haven’t met him, thank God.

      • I haven’t met the Orange Dictator, thank God, either. I did think of you this morning when I noticed my Nerine Lilies finally came up! The foliage is light green, any thoughts on fertilizer? I am leaning towards a little liquid plant food.

      • Chloris says:

        I should feed them with a high potash fertiliser to make sure you get flowers. I use tomato feed. But only once in a season.

      • Thank you. I have 🍅 food. They are growing in the dreadful sand..

  2. I like Stripey and Quaint and Queer. Have never seen such flowers here, or perhaps never noticed them. Your garden is a cabinet of curiosities and delights, my friend.And aren’t you lucky to have the Pianist, in his infinite variety.

    • Chloris says:

      These are such sweet sisyrinchiums and they are quite unusual here too. Oh yes, I am very lucky to have my lovely Pianist, he is a constant source of delight, even if he does kill my trees.

  3. Eliza Waters says:

    We have the wild blue-eyed grass here, but I didn’t realize that they were so many other varieties. I wonder why they aren’t popular here? They are lovely!

  4. Kris P says:

    Maybe your American visitors were unfamiliar with the plants’ Latin names? (Even as a docent at my local botanic garden, I’ve been “encouraged” to use common names with visitors, something I admit annoys me as I think part of a botanic garden’s job should be educating the public but so it goes.) “Blue-eyed grass” is common, at least in California. Sisyrinchium bellum and S. californicum are native to the California coast. Although the former didn’t do well in my current garden when I first tried it, perhaps because I didn’t give it enough water, I recently planted hybrids ‘Devon Skies’ and ‘Quaint & Queer’. The former has bloomed but the latter hasn’t as yet; however, all my plants are still very small, having arrived in 4-inch pots by mail order. Sisyrinchium striatum is native to Chile and Argentina according to my garden guide and, though it’s reportedly suitable to my climate, I’ve never seen the plant sold here.

    • Chloris says:

      I have noticed that on a lot of American blogs people seem reluctant to use Latin. This can be a problem because names can be very local and sometimes just made up by catalogues. If we use Latin we all know what we are talking about. I thought you would know all about sisyrinchium.

  5. Lovely! As some of the others mentioned, several Sisyrinchium species (angustifolium, albidum, others) are native here, and I have some. I don’t have any of the larger ones, though. They are gorgeous. One time when I was visiting my folks in Florida, I saw an entire field of the little ones. It was very pretty. 🙂

  6. Christina says:

    More projects Liz – you’re insatiable! I have Sisyrinchium striatum and it does spread profusely (not a thug though because I can easily pull it out). It has a nice habit of seeding itself all along the edge of paths, very clever of it. Mine tend to go black in the heat and as there are always new ones, I just pull them out. I love Sisyrinchium striatum ‘Aunt May’ (if you ever have any to spare of that I’d love some. You don’t often see any of them for sale here which is strange because they should do well.

    • Chloris says:

      I know I keep promising myself that I will concentrate on maintenance but then an idea pops into my head and I can’t rest until I have carried it out. S. Aunt May doesn’t seed about so you have to wait until it clumps up a bit to divide it. You don’t find it for sale very often.

  7. Your garden is looking great and I admire you ambition to start a new bed.

  8. Ali says:

    We had lots and lots of Sisyrinchium striatum here when we moved here. I must confess I take it for granted but the flowers are very pretty. It is the most pulled-out self-seeder in the borders. It gets everywhere and is good at camouflage and flattening itself up against other plants to go unnoticed. But it is very easy and quite satisfying to pull out.
    I look forward to your planting plan evolving!

    • Chloris says:

      Oh yes, Sisyrinchium striatum can be invasive but as you say it is easy to pull out and I like it growing in swathes, it sets off other plants beautifully.

  9. tonytomeo says:

    The native blue eyed grass is somewhat popular here, particularly with those who like native plants. However, it rarely does well. Most of us water it too much. I am not familiar with the tall types that I see in other articles. I would not know them if I encountered them.

    • Chloris says:

      None of my American visitors recognised Sisyrinchium striatum, it seems to be unavailable in the States. It is a lovely plant with creamy flowers and it looks good with so many other plants.

  10. Cathy says:

    How exciting to have another new project – and good learn more about sisyrinchiums, of which I know little. Thanks for sharing

    • Chloris says:

      Yes, you are like me, you love a new project. This year’s is complete now so the mind races on to the next.

      • Cathy says:

        It’s only June, Chloris, so I can’t be sure there will be no more projects here – but I have a stack of bricks to dream up a project for!!

  11. Cathy says:

    In that first photo they provide a lovely setting for the irises. I like the Quaint and Queer one too. I don’t think I have come across these before. Good luck with plans for the new project. 🙂

    • Chloris says:

      The sword like leaves go so well with the irises and libertia, I think it is a nice edging for a bed. This is for next year, I’ve already done this year’s project and now I need to get on top of maintenance work.

  12. Lawn is almost always boring and a waste of space, in my opinion. Only a tiny fraction of the lawn that exists can really be justified. A garden of strappy-leaved plants is an inspired idea. I just noticed a big display of Sisyrinchiums at one of my favorite area nurseries. S. angustifolium is native to this area, where it is generally known as Blue-Eyed Grass.

    • Chloris says:

      I do agree, lawn exists to be dug up and make room for plants. I’ve been digging up more of it today to make room for more roses.
      Have you seen Sisyrinchium striatum there? Most Americans don’t seem to know it.

  13. Brian Skeys says:

    We have striatum in the corner of the Iris bed, it has looked particularly good this year. It is as you say very easy to dismiss these ‘ordinary’ plants. I did not know there were so many within the family, thank you for the introduction. I must look out for them at plant sales etc.

  14. snowbird says:

    American visitors eh? Therein lies a story! Oh, dear little stripey and quaint and queer, how charming they are! I tip my cap to you starting new beds and projects, your energy is astonishing, but what rewards you get. You have such beautiful gardens! I laughed at loud reading of the Slayer of Trees, hubs is as bad, he leaves a trail of flattened plants every time he

  15. Chloris says:

    Yes, they were charming people and so appreciative. You know I love a project in the garden. And you have made a lot of changes in your garden too this last year. It’s fun isn’t it?
    The Pianist never reads my blog, but apparently he read this post and is a bit put out that I compared him to Atilla the Hun.

  16. Nik says:

    I have been looking for Quaint and Queer for a few years and came across this.. Where did you obtain your seeds?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s