Saturday, December 19, 2009

Candy Lilies





































I decided to post about these after seeing a thread today on the Pacific Bulb Society about how these plants are becoming harder to find in recent years and how some people have/had difficulty getting them to bloom. Candy lilies, also known as Pardancanda norrisii, are the result of hybridization between the blackberry lily I. domestica (formerly Belamcamda chinensis), and Iris dichrotoma. Both were formerly put into genera other than Iris, so now they should just be called Iris x norrisii. I grew these plants from seed from Parks, a company that has some good seed items, but over time has declined in terms of variety and quality of products offered, especially their non seed items, which are often not as reliable as their seeds usually are (see gardenwatchdog.com).
Now I have to admit, the flowers I got are not as exciting as the colors shown on Park's website, but I assume they are picking the best out of a huge field of plants to photograph. What I did get was variety, lots of it, mostly in shades of yellow-oranges, and pinks. Patterns of various sorts also appear, stripes and spots, bicolored flowers, and plain solid colors as well. I did not get much in the strong purple range, though such shades do exist and I'd like to get a good one some day. I was pleased overall, they flower in July when other irises are long finished, they are pretty, low maintenance, and you get lots of flowers from each plant. I found these easy to grow from seed, a few bloomed their first year, and most have survived for three years thus far. They seed prolifically (and the seed pods are pretty, like huge blackberries), and I've allowed a few seedlings to come up in the school garden where the parents are located, just to see if I might get some better selections. I am not exactly sure why some folks have had trouble blooming them, they seem quite happy in rather poor soil in good sun without tree root competition. I imagine they would be susceptible to iris borers, but (knock on wood) they don't seem to have found my school garden yet. They can flop, so stakes can be helpful to keep the inflorescences from leaning on neighboring plants.
One of the pics above shows candy lilies alongside a lovely white form of Lobelia cardinalis. I got the original plant from Goodwin Creek gardens, I think, and have saved seed to start new plants periodically to keep the strain going. Its quite lovely in its own right, and I keep the plants at school, and the normal red flowered ones at home, so as to maintain its genetic purity. I sent some seed to the NARGS exchange this year. As apparently might be the case with candy lilies, its long term survival relies to a great extent on capable gardeners growing, propagating, and sharing it around.

1 comment:

Greensparrow said...

I was all excited to try candy lilies when I first heard about them, but have to say I was disappointed. They grow and bloom extremely easily for me, but never put on much of a show -- the flowers look great in close up pictures, but in the garden I hardly even notice them. The compact strain 'Dazzler' is better, as is the selection 'Sangria' but I think they need some serious breeding work before they'll really be much worth growing.