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    Save the Date: Perennial Plant Society’s 30th Plant Sale is April 4, 2020, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the new Expo 3 Building at The Fairgrounds Nashville. Here’s where you can find the newest varieties of perennials, shrubs, vines and annuals from local growers, along with long-time, never-fail favorites, ready for spring planting. Learn more at the PPS website.

     

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Blackberry lilies are lovely, low low-maintenance plants

 

I’d like to grow blackberry lilies in my new garden. When is the best time to plant them?

Black berry lily

Seeds in late summer resemble blackberries.

Blackberry lilies (Iris domestica) are easy-to-grow plants that add an interesting touch to garden beds and borders. When the leaves emerge, they resemble bearded irises, growing in a fan shape. The six-petaled red-spotted yellow flowers bloom about mid-summer atop tall, slender stems. In late summer, the flowers give way to seed capsules that split open to reveal shiny black seed clusters that look like blackberries.

Blackberry lilies grow from tubers. Plant them in average, well-drained soil, about an inch deep, any time the ground is not frozen.

blackberry lily 2Horticulturists at the Missouri Botanical Garden web site suggest planting them in full sun, but gardeners report that they tolerate partial shade and still bloom well. Clumps of blackberry lilies expand by creeping rhizomes, and the plants may also self-seed if growing conditions are right. Provide regular water as the plants grow and bloom.

 

Callas’ beauty can be fleeting

QUESTION: My calla lilies, which are supposed to be white, are blooming, but the blooms are green! Otherwise, the plants look healthy. In fact, I’ve noticed in the past that they form seed pods. Is something wrong with them?

Calla lilyCalla lilies are lovely flowers, and easy to grow in containers or in the ground. The most common varieties produce white, yellow or pink flowers. That flower is technically the spathe, which wraps around the spadix, where the actual flowers grow. When the spathe turns green, it’s going through its natural life cycle on the way to making seeds.

Susan Bryant at Lakeside Callas in Dandridge, Tenn., explained that the spathe turns darker as it matures, and the outside of the spathe begins to turn green and to close up, with seeds forming inside.

“It starts turning green and closing up after a few days,” she said. Heat and lack of moisture might cause it to close up sooner. If you don’t watch them every day, it’s possible to miss the blooms.

You can cut the flower stalk off after it blooms, which will help the bulb grow larger. The foliage stays green and adds texture and interest to perennial beds. If you allow the seed pods to remain, let the seeds ripen and plant them in a pot indoors to grow over the winter, then put the new bulbs in the garden next summer.  It will take two years for the new plants to bloom, Bryant said. The offpspring may be a different color from the parent.

Callas prefer moist, well-drained soil and grow well in full sun, but they tolerate a bit of shade. In colder climates, the bulbs may need to be dug up and stored over the winter and replanted in spring. Gardeners in Middle Tennessee generally find that bulbs survive the winter in the ground.