The iris reticulata offers a vibrant blue colour to the garden. Photo by Leslie Cox.

The iris reticulata offers a vibrant blue colour to the garden. Photo by Leslie Cox.

DUCHESS OF DIRT: Spring reveals a selection of relatively rare blue blossoms

LESLIE COX

Special to The Record

It feels good to be working more hours in the garden. Especially since the weather is co-operating in granting us a few degrees above zero. Still, I am glad to have my dad’s thick gardening sweater on. Of course, lots of raking helps to raise the body temperature as well.

I love my spring raking chore. It is preferred to the autumn raking when I have to bury the garden beds in thick leaf mulch for winter insulation. This time of year, I am uncovering everything in the beds… and getting some nice surprises.

All but one of my latest hellebore acquisitions had a short stem of dangling flower buds to show off once the leaf blanket was pulled away. Rather pleased as these were small four-inch pot-size introductions last spring.

I had already been enjoying my older, more established hellebores because their sturdier flower stalks had pushed up above the leaf mulch. The pinky-cream flowers on ‘Ivory Prince’ and dusky-pink ones on ‘Pink Frost’ are a poignant treasure from my mom. She understood my delight in spring blossoms.

As was her own pleasure. Many an early spring visit to my parents in Victoria were spent in driving my mom up and down the cherry and plum blossom-laden, tree-lined streets. Repeatedly. We were not looking in vain for a parking space, just absorbing the beautiful scenery.

Moving on through the garden beds… I spotted tiny stems of Anemone nemorosa ‘Robinsoniana’ (wood anemone) just beginning to appear. Won’t be long before it will be a stunning clump of medium green, deeply-incised leaves topped with masses of star-shaped, lavender-blue flowers.

Not far beyond the wood anemone was the patch of Iris reticulata, a dwarf species native to Eastern Europe. To my mind, the number of thin green stems had grown in number since last spring. A happy thought because I do love the startling blue of the miniature iris flowers, marked with splashes of bright yellow and a bit of white.

Unfortunately, I am not sure if my dwarf iris is more correctly the cultivar called ‘Harmony.’ The problem stems from the variation in published identifying photos ranging from pale blue through deep blue to a pale purple colour.

Did you know the colour blue is rare in nature? It is estimated the number of blue-flowering plants is less than 10 per cent in the plant kingdom. This is because there is no actual blue pigment in plants. Weird, huh?

So how is the colour blue executed in plants? It all hinges on concentrations of different colour pigments, a plant’s molecules and ions, pigment-regulating genes, soil pH, and the plant’s cell structures affecting light reflection.

The human eye is also responsible for the perceived blue colour. We do not all see the same shades of colour in the spectrum which makes colour, like taste, a very personal experience.

All of this is close to explaining why my iris reticulatas are such a deep blue colour with the biggest contributing factor being our low soil pH. The closer to 6.0, and lower, on the pH scale, the more intense the blue coloration.

Helpful garden critters

Moving on in the garden, I have one more discovery to share with you. A young millipede curled up in a tight circle like a coiled rope. A pale pink-cream colour, it looked just like its black mature adult stage. They do good work feeding on decaying plant material but can do some damage to young seedling roots. Possible root damage aside, I leave this guy alone to do the composting for me.

And if you spot its “cousin” the centipede, leave it be too. It is a voracious predator. Both of these can live at least five years.

Leslie Cox co-owns Growing Concern Cottage Garden in Black Creek. Her website is at www.duchessofdirt.ca

gardening

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations in Gold River area

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

Volunteers sort through bottles and cans during Saturday's fundraiser for hospice. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Comox Valley hospice holds drive-through bottle drive

Bike team is fundraising for the annual Cycle of Life tour on Vancouver Island

The Village of Cumberland is applying for a UBCM grant to help streamline development application processes. Black Press file photo
Cumberland looks to streamline development

“This looks like the best thing we’ve ever applied for.”

Security camera image of 7-Eleven robbery suspect. Photo supplied.
Late-night Courtenay robbery results in 500-plus days in jail

Heatley’s sentence also includes probation, DNA order, firearms ban

A 3.0-magnitude earthquake occurred off Ucluelet just after 12:30 a.m. on April 10 and was reportedly felt as far south as Oregon. (Map via United States Geological Survey)
Quake off Ucluelet reportedly felt as far south as Oregon

Magnitude 1.5 earthquake also reported off Vancouver Island’s west coast hours earlier

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

People walk past the Olympic rings in Whistler, B.C., Friday, May 15, 2020. Whistler which is a travel destination for tourists around the world is seeing the effects of travel bans due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Adults living, working in Whistler, B.C., eligible for COVID-19 vaccine on Monday

The move comes as the province deals with a rush of COVID-19 and variant cases in the community

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
UPDATE: RCMP investigating after child, 6, dies at motel in Duncan, B.C.

The BC Coroners Service is conducting its own investigation into the circumstances around the child’s death

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia’s opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan’s government, but they say Monday’s throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province’s economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

Farnworth said the budget will include details of government investment in communities and infrastructure

FILE - An arena worker removes the net from the ice after the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames NHL hockey game was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test result, in Vancouver, British Columbia, in this Wednesday, March 31, 2021, file photo. As vaccinations ramp up past a pace of 3 million a day in the U.S, the NHL is in a tougher spot than the other three major North American professional sports leagues because seven of 31 teams are based on Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
Vancouver Canucks scheduled to practice Sunday, resume games April 16 after COVID outbreak

Canucks outbreak delayed the team’s season by eight games

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

Most Read