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MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin

Welcome to our blog! Written by staff at MMWD, “Think Blue Marin” explores all things water in south and central Marin—water supplies, conservation, new projects, watershed management, and more.

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Nov 18

November Surprises

Posted on November 18, 2016 at 9:41 AM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

Springtime is a favorite time of year for me due to the outbreak of garden colors after the long, drab winter months. It is the time for powerful fragrances wafting in the air from such plants as freesia and star jasmine. Roses unfurl their exquisite blossoms, and drifts of wildflowers cover the hills in a riot of oranges, pinks and yellows. Iris dot the landscape with their magnificent accents of color.

Alas, November is a time for dormancy. Plants prepare for the throes of a long, cold, wet winter by stopping their bloom cycles. Many plants, such as peonies, tuck in by sending their energy into their root systems and disappearing until spring. The fall display of autumn leaves lies decaying in pools on the earth's floor. Typically this is a time for the garden to be at rest.

Reblooming iris
 Reblooming iris
However, as I walked into the backyard this week, I noticed an iris sporting the vestiges of spring! Upon closer inspection, buds were forming and exposing a layer of deep purple skin as the flowers began to unfold. Within days, much to my delight, the iris was in full bloom—in November! A delightful surprise and a testament to the reblooming iris I planted earlier this year.

Reblooming iris look very much like the superb bearded iris so famed throughout the centuries by royalty. Historically, iris were known as spring bloomers only, except when forced to grow in greenhouses. In the early 1900s, amateur plant enthusiasts began developing the reblooming iris. Initially they had little success in attaining the vibrant color combinations found in the bearded iris. However, these garden hobbyists found a passion with the iris and knew they could attain more bloom cycles than the bearded iris's once-a-year flowering. They continued working with the plant's ability to accelerate its growth pattern, allowing it to bloom as many as five times a year. 

Today, one can find several hundred types of reblooming iris on the market. The colors available cover the spectrum of the rainbow with the added bonus of fragrance, which the bearded iris lacks. Due to their ability to grow so quickly, they readily form new plants from underground rhizomes, expanding their beauty within the garden.

Autumn is the time to plant these treasures. Iris thrive in sun, deer and rabbits typically do not find them palatable, and your efforts for growing them will be rewarded several times a year with their gorgeous blossoms! May you, too, enjoy a November surprise with these beauties.

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