“A flash of harmless lightning. A mist of rainbow dyes, the burnished sunbeam brightening from flower to flower he flies.”
John Banister Tabb
When my children were little, we would often sit quietly at dusk waiting to see if a hummingbird would alight on one of our flowers. If we were rewarded to see one hover nearby, our hearts would fill with wonder and joy. Many years later, I still count seeing a hummingbird as one of life’s greatest privileges. My garden is filled with brightly colored flowers known to attract these beautiful birds: columbines, foxgloves, daylilies, impatiens, petunias, phlox, coral bells, penstemmon to name a few. But my garden’s star attraction to hummingbirds is the little known perennial, blackberry lily(Iris domestica), which grows just outside my kitchen window. Also known as leopard flower, leopard lily or the fun “freckle face” for obvious reasons, this hardy perennial grows in zones 5-10.
There is so much to love about this flower. Its 6 sword-shaped leaves are bright cantaloupe orange speckled with darker orange freckles, a surefire attraction to hummingbirds. The large lime green seed pods emerge at the same time as the flowers in early summer and are fascinating to look at throughout the summer. The flowers bloom around the same time as daylilies in the garden and enjoy full sun/part shade in well drained soil. Mine are planted in a half whiskey barrel planter where they tower about 2 feet high. They make excellent cut flowers and their seed capsules are unique in flower arrangements. The plants are deer resistant and rebloom year to year.
By now you are wondering why is this plant called a blackberry lily! Well that is because the lime green seed pods dry up and reveal large clusters of shiny black seed clusters ressembling blackberries once the flowers are spent, in early fall.
The seeds can be harvested and stored in a moist environment for the winter. I bagged mine in a ziplock bag with a bit of moist sand and overwintered them in a crisper drawer of the refrigerator. They can be planted in early spring directly in the soil once the danger of frost has passed.
For more information, please visit Cornell University’s page on the blackberry lily, here. Or this excellent source: https://plantingoaks.wordpress.com/2011/12/27/growing-blackberry-lilies-or-candy-lilies-from-seed/
“Like the hummingbird sipping nectar from every flower, I fly joyfullly through my days, seeing beauty in everything.” Amethyst Wyldfyre
May the wonder of hummingbirds and blackberry lilies be yours to behold!