Saturday, April 09, 2011

Iris Pseudacorus

Saturday, April 9, 2010

Just in from a nice walk with Karl the Wonder Dog. The sky is clear, temperature 24.3° and windless. A tom turkey calls out this morning from the mountain towards RT 232 and doves and jays fight over the bird seed. One hairy and one downy woodpecker, possible friends, peck away on the remaining onion sack of suet. They seem to know I will not replace it when its gone.

Gail is in the kitchen making kitchen noise as she prepares to leave for a program at Vermont Technical College. The New England Wild Flower Society uses that site for an annual presentation and it always pleases. I say "always"but that's not quite true. Gail returned last year with flowery comments about lunch that included some concoction of pizza that was covered with scrambled eggs she was convinced were left over from the breakfast line. That was apparently one of the more interesting offerings to the point that she wrote a couple thoughts to the current college president. Gail's dad was a professor at VTC for many years and she maintains his integrity in always presenting a good product. The pizza was not that good.

As spring has already arrived in many parts of America, listservs begin to discuss plants still buried under snow here in Vermont. My favorite hellebores are receiving plenty of review now and the volume of comments and advertisements confirms the growing popularity of this flower. From Florida came a comment about Iris pseudacorus, the yellow flag iris. This is a bright yellow iris, with 3-4 foot sword-like leaves and vibrant yellow blooms. It's also a problem as it spreads quickly by rhizomes or seeds and its thick mass chokes out native flowers and has a tremendous impact on wetlands over time.

When gardeners post pictures, I try to recall when I first saw yellow flag in Vermont. It seems as if it's a more recent thing in the past 25 years but truly I cannot remember. Gail brought me home a couple wild flower books from the library giveaway last month so curiosity led me to the pages on pseudacorus. Old flower books with black line sketches and no color images have lost the popularity for many modern gardeners but Gail knows I like history and reference and I don't mind the drawings. The 1923 book mentions blue flag but not yellow flag and the 1948 book described the range from mid-south up the coast to Massachusetts. So now, +60 years later, (my lifetime, folks) yellow flag has made it to Canada.

We have a big plant of pseudacorus by the side of the house next to and half under a Thundercloud crab apple. That crab barely survived the ice storm of 1998 and still looks terrible despite a number of prunings. Gail bought the iris from a local nursery and planted it next to the artesian well casing, hoping it would cover it. Now I hope I don't need to get the well driller back for repairs as the plant has overtaken the area. It's a dry area and as such the iris is not as big a clump as it would be near water but just the same I'd hate to have the job of removing it.

Pseudacorus is a nice yellow iris but I cannot recommend it. Its invasive character should be a concern and factually there are many beautiful Siberian irises that are yellow. They are not as tall but they don't create problems. If you have other plants that serve as a replacement to yellow flag's height, color and abundance of bloom, drop me a line. I'm sure other's will be interested too!

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where I notice neighbors and visitors to the pond are out for morning dog walks. The smells of spring and the sweetness of sugar shacks boiling sap for maple syrup today will bring on smiles too. Hope yours is one of them!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
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