Monday, March 19, 2012

Rain Comes to Dry California

 What a difference an inch of rain can make!

Saturday it rained for over six hours. The rain gauge measured an inch and a third of spring-awakening water. By the next day, the Douglas iris committed itself to bloom.

While we are still in need of five or more inches to bring us into the “normal” range of rainfall, this gentle winter shower has washed the dust from the leaves and prompted some of the plants to reach for spring.
The Douglas iris is a California native and like all of our other native plants responds rapidly to rainfall. The deep purple blooms typically open throughout April, this year they're a bit early. There are hybrids of this native that come in a variety of shades, from white to deep purple and burgundy. Interestingly, in our yard, it is always the original purple that blooms first and is the most robust. The blooms last for a month or so, depending on the rainfall. The slender green leaves are fibrous and deep in color, they survive both frost and drought. We’ve been most successful with them planted in partial shade.

Our biggest challenge comes on four-tiny legs; pocket gophers that like to lunch on the iris’s rhizomes. If I can keep the rodents at bay, the Douglas iris comes back in larger clumps each year. Even if you initially put them in the wrong spot, they transplant easily. The Douglas iris demonstrates the beauty and practicality of planting natives.

They say it may rain again tomorrow. The iris and I are hoping that is true.

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