Sunday, June 9, 2013

Blue-eyed Grass & Wild Sarsaparilla

'Blue-eyed' Grass Sisrynchium montanum
I tend to be an impatient gardener. I usually buy plants when they are in bloom and the gratification is both immediate and guaranteed. The long winters here, though, and the pictures in the seed catalogues that start to arrive with the new year can set my mind to wandering, although usually in the direction of next summer's fresh veggies (and, this being Zone 3, those with the fewest days to maturity). Sometimes, though, as with last week's Anomalous Peony, I'll settle in for a longer wait.
Grass-like leaves and buds of Blue-eyed Grass (an iris)
Here's another example - Sisrynchium montanum, a Blue-eyed Grass, finally blooming four years after the seeds were planted. This species is a native and very attractive in bloom, although the flowers are only about 15 mm across and close when the sun is not shinning.
Closed flowers and seed pods on a gloomy Sunday
Some species of Sisrynchium do have pale blue tepals, but this Alberta native looks more like a Purple-eyed Grass to me, although the only other common name I found is Strict Blue-eyed Grass. It grows in meadows and other damp, open areas around the Province and much of North America.
Looking more like an iris, but no bluer, a German Iris ignores the gloom
Blue-eyed Grass is very modest compared to the horticultural varieties of its relatives in the genus Iris, but I'm quite happy with my little patch. On sunny days several dozen flowers have been in bloom and, although I have yet to see a pollinator, it seems to be seeding freely. When it comes to the Wild Sarsaparilla, though, the flowers are not the attraction.
Umbel of Wild Sarsaparilla Aralia nudicaulis
This is another Alberta native that can also be found throughout much of North America. My rhizomes were planted in 2007, so that makes it another 6-year wait, but this plant delivered interesting foliage from its first season.
Wild Sarsaparilla over Nodding Onion
I also admit to a bit of collectoritis - the Araliaceae otherwise being absent from the Home Bug Garden. Still, I find the leaves attractive and they seem to blend in well with my other shade-loving plants. Also, although the berries are usually described as 'insipid' or 'inedible', I thought the berries of the parent material quite tasty.
Wild Sarsaparilla, Epimedium, Hellbore, Bloodroot, Bedstraw, Vetch, Wild Lily-of-the-Valley and Sweet Cicely cohabiting in the shade


  1. Do you know what zone your Epimedium is rated for? I saw some the other day but they were rated for zone 5 so I was hesitant although I think they are beautiful.

  2. Hi Ms S,

    My epimedia are rated for Zone 4 and went into the garden in 2009. They get pretty good snow cover where they are at and seem to be doing okay:
    Epimedium grandiflorum 'Lilafee'
    Epimedium x warleyense 'Ellen Willmott'