iris

Denny Schrock

Crocus plus

After a couple of days with record warmth in the 70s and 80s, early spring bulbs are displaying their vernal glory in my yard. As of March 14 the landscape features eight different types of crocuses, three iris varieties, three kinds of daffodils, spring meadow saffron, snowdrops, winter aconite, and pasque flower in bloom. This early color may not last long because temperatures are predicted to remain in the 70s through next week, but it’s such a welcome sight to see splashes of color dotting the yard before winter officially makes its exit.

Here are some current photos from the yard.

My favorite crocus is Crocus fuscotinctus. Its bright gold flowers have purplish maroon stripes on the outside of the petals, and it's always one of the first to come into bloom. It's growing near the mailbox, where it withstands winter road salt.

It's easy to see where the tricolor part of the name comes from for Crocus sieberi 'Tricolor'. Lilac-purple petals have a golden base with a stripe of white in between.

Crocus vernus 'Grand Maitre' translates as Grand Master, an apt name for this gorgeous purple crocus with an intricately frilly orange stigma.

Crocus flavus has large, intense yellow blooms that open wide only when the sun is shining. On cloudy days and at night, they close up.

Spring meadow saffron (Bulbocodium vernum) is a crocus cousin native to the Pyrenees and Alps. It is sometimes called Colchicum vernum.

Spanish iris (Iris hispanica 'George') has deep purple blooms with colorful markings on its nearly tubular falls. It grows nearly one foot tall.

Reticulate iris (Iris reticulata 'Harmony') has purple-blue petals with distinctive markings on its falls. It reaches just six inches tall.


Denny Schrock

mountains of mulch

mulchpileLast weekend I found a bargain on bagged hardwood mulch that I couldn’t resist. The pile you see at left is only a small portion of the 300 bags that I purchased and spread throughout the perennial beds in my yard. (For those of you who are wondering, that’s a bit over 22 cubic yards of mulch.)

It had been several years since I applied the original wood chip mulch on most beds, and I had two large new beds that never got mulched at all last year. So I was delighted to find such a good deal. The mulch will help keep weeds down, conserve moisture, and keep blooms clean. I find that if I spread it about 2 inches deep throughout the beds, the perennials and bulbs come up through the mulch just fine. This time of year, as the perennials are just starting to poke through the ground, and the early spring bulbs are beginning to bloom, is a great time to spread the mulch. I don’t need to be extremely cautious in spreading the mulch around individual plants; broadcast application works quite well.

To illustrate my point, take a look at these crocuses and irises that I shot in my garden after spreading the mulch. My only regret is that I didn’t buy another 100 bags of mulch, which would have been enough to mulch all of the beds in my yard!

Crocus sieberi 'Tricolor'. The gold and white center of each flower glows from within a lavender corona.

Crocus sieberi 'Tricolor'. The gold and white center of each flower glows from within a lavender corona.

Iris reticulata 'Harmony'. Deep purple falls are splashed with gold on this diminutive gem.

Iris reticulata 'Harmony'. Deep purple falls are splashed with gold on this diminutive gem.

Iris danfordiae. This tiny yellow iris makes a great companion for the yellow chrysanthus crocuses.

Iris danfordiae. This tiny yellow iris makes a great companion for the yellow chrysanthus crocuses.

Crocus chrysanthus 'Fuscotinctus'. I love the contrast of the deep purple streaks on the outer petals with the bright gold interior.

Crocus chrysanthus 'Fuscotinctus'. I love the contrast of the deep purple streaks on the outer petals with the bright gold interior.


Denny Schrock

signs of spring

I heard them yesterday on my lunch-hour run near the Raccoon River. The spring peepers (Pseudacris crucifer) were chirping in full chorus. These tiny little frogs are one of the sure signs of spring. The males create a cacaphony of music in their attempt to attract mates who will lay their eggs in small ponds that often dry up later in the year.

Yellow crocus (Crocus flavus)

Yellow crocus (Crocus flavus)

Those spring peepers made me think of other signs of spring that I noted in my yard this week, and wondered whether they could be consistently connected. These cheery yellow crocus came into full bloom in my backyard, where they fill two quadrants of a boxwood parterre. Other crocuses also have come into full glory this past week. Pale blue ‘Blue Pearl’, deep purple ‘Grand Maitre’, and creamy ‘Romance’ snow crocus brighten the garden beds.

I also noticed some of the early irises blooming. This bright yellow danford iris (Iris danfordiae) greets me as I walk to the mailbox. Deep blue ‘Harmony’ reticulate iris (Iris reticulata) and purple ‘George’ Spanish iris (Iris histrioides) popped through the winter mulch this week, too.

Danford iris (Iris danfodiae)

Danford iris (Iris danfordiae)

Could these early-season crocuses and irises be indicators of the awakening of spring peepers? I’ve not necessarily made the connection before. Phenology, the correlation of biological phenomena with climatic conditions, can be used by gardeners to watch for or treat certain pests. For example, recommendations to apply crabgrass preventer when forsythias are in bloom stem from the need to get the weed preventer in place before the ground warms to 55 degrees F, the temperature at which crabgrass seeds begin to germinate.

Have you made connections between bloom dates in your yard with other natural phenomena? If so, we’d love to hear about them.