Blackberry lilies don’t get the respect they deserve.

It’s starts, I think, with their name. These plants are neither blackberry nor lily. Not even close. Their leaves give away their true identify: an iris.

The disrespect continues innocently enough, perpetuated through simple ignorance. Put another way: Most gardeners have never heard of or seen these delightful perennials.

That’s really a shame.

Blackberry lilies are stars of the summertime garden, reaching heights of two to three to nearly four feet with their flower stalks, each of which is topped with a cluster of exuberant, bright-orange flowers. The plants aren’t edible or native, but their happy, look-at-me flowers do please the bees (and the gardener).

blackberry-lily

The show lasts for a few weeks, and then slows down while the fertilized flowers mature.

Then, as fall arrives, so does Act II of  the blackberry lily’s display: seed heads.

blackberry-lily-winter

The plant’s doubly-wrong name is made clear — in part — by these seed heads. Because, how can you look at them and not see blackberries?

They stand on strong tall stems, and will often last the whole winter through unless strong winds or heavy snow knock them down. Enjoy them in the garden, or clip a few and bring them indoors for some wintertime “flowers.”

Blackberry lilies aren’t common. You can find seed through Monticello. Thomas Jefferson grew blackberry lilies in 1807 (and other years too, I hope), and the seeds offered by Monticello may be descendants of those plants. A google search will turn up other sources, but why bother when you can grow seed potentially harvested from the great-great-great-great-and-so-on grandparent plants of blackberry lilies that TJ himself once grew? Bonus: Monticello is offering free shipping on all its heirloom seed through the month of March! I’ll definitely be taking advantage of that little deal.

What about you? Are blackberry lilies new to you, or an old friend?

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10 Rules for Breaking the Rules in Front Yard Vegetable Gardens

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