May 31, 2010

Cypella herbertii, An Iris Relative from Uruguay

Cypella herbertii, is a rarely seen iris relative and it's Iris 'Eyes are Smiling', even thought it's from South America via Uruguay, this grows from corms not unlike Gladiolus. Taxonomists have places Cypella in the plant Family Iridaceae, and although other botanic experts may disagree, it remains there for now. I've been experimenting with some in both the ground, and in containers, to see for myself, how I could help maximize both the ornamental features of this plant, and improve on methods of every-day home cultivation. My advice is plant a dozen bulbs in a container of well drained soil, and enjoy the sword shaped leaves, and include the plant in group container displays where you want something really different. The flowers are short lived, like any iris, but the overall effect is improved when you have a number of waving, wiry stems with floating flowers, the more the better. 

Only a few (one) U.S. mailorder  sources that I know of ( like Plant Delights).  Much like Tigridia, it look better in close up photos, than it does as a single bulb ( corm) planted in the ground. It does provide an interesting and stylish color ( French's Mustard?) for container displays, I would pair it with coral colored Phormium, to spice up it's brief floral display ( it blooms for a day, and then, that's it, but other flowers open on the same stem, so the entire display might last two weeks with more corms plants). Hey, no different than Peonies. So in plantings, plan for other plants to carry on the theme. There is a reason why a google search will only result in close-ups and not in a full container shot. This tells me that there is an opportunity here - buy a hundred, and pot-em up for a photo shoot! ( I did this this year with Galtonia, Anemone coronaria and Ornithogalum-stay tuned, they are coming up). Numbers are what it's all about if you want a display.

Cypella herbertii is but just one of a genus which may deserve more commercial exploitation. C. herbertii is the most common of the bunch, but a few others, about 15 species in all, which according to the Pacific Bulb Society WIKI range from Mexico to Argentina. Check out the other species that some collectors grow, here, at the PBSWIKI. ( And if interesting in learning more about rare bulbs, consider joining the Pacific Bulb Group, don't let the name fool you, it's much more about unusual bulbs from around the globe, than it is about the Pacific bulbs. They just can't find a better name to include the rest of the world, so they are sticking with the PBS.).

Don't expect much from a single corm or two, like many Iris relatives, it's all about mass, so invest in quantity once you find a place where this South American native like to grow. It might be along a warm, sunny wall where it is well drained, and dry in the winter in Zone 6 or higher, or, if you are like me, a fast-draining soil mix enhanced with gravel in a deep pot, which spend it's winter, dormant and dry in the cold greenhouse.

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