It’s elementary, my dear Watsonia…

I never thought that I’d get excited over a plant that looks kind of like an iris.  Irises do have their place, and most of the time that place is someone else’s garden.  I do actually have a few irises myself, but they were free and I needed the cool mint color of their leaves in the winter.

The genus Watsonia covers plants that look similar (at least in leaf form) to irises.  Native to South Africa, they hail from the dry and sunburned slopes of the inland hills.  Not exactly a climatic match to the Pacific Northwest.  It gets a little colder here in Vancouver than the native range of some Watsonia, including my favorite; W gladioloides.  I originally picked up my little gladioloides (that’s a mouthful, and I’ll just shorten it to WG) in May of 2013, right as it was dropping it’s last few blooms.  It was the only one left at a wholesale greenhouse open house, and I barely noticed it behind several other large plants.  The greenhouse had a large in-ground mound of WG that was very impressive (not for sale, of course. Go figure!), and I figured the small plant was the same species.  As I took it to the check-out area, I was stopped every few feet by people oohing and awing and semi-jokingly saying that as soon as I wasn’t looking they were stealing it from me.

After exhausting it’s blooms that summer, it did nothing for the next year.  In the dead of winter this last time around, I decided to re-pot it and see if that was the problem.  Turn’s out, it was.  It tripled in size, and has sent out 2 bloom spikes shooting several feet into the air!

The colors of this bloom are so intense, you can see it before it opens. You have to love the contrast between the dusted purple stem, the sea foam green sepals, and the fuchsia buds.

When the buds began to open this morning, I knew I needed to take pictures.  I’ve been waiting 2 years for this!

Watsonia gladioloides Purple anthers! Fuchsia petals! Hard to believe all this comes from an unassuming iris look-alike.

As you can see, there are quite a few more buds waiting to open up. For now, I can only imagine what WG will look like when all of them are open!

Difficult to see in this photo, but beautiful up close. This is where the magic happens.

I know that the seeds from WG will be fertile, and I’ve germinated them with about 50% success.  Not great, but it’s been a few years and I’ve learned a lot.  I’ll be trying again this year!

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