Clean-shaven Irises

Iris hyb_XG-CO_LAH_6240Colorado gardeners are so familiar with Bearded Irises (Iris germanica) that we tend to forget there are any others. It’s true that Bearded Irises do exceptionally well in our climate and soils, but they won’t bloom for several more months. Two smaller relatives—Iris reticulata and Iris danfordia—are blooming now. Why not grow them as well?

Iris reticulata and I. danfordia are collectively known as Dwarf Irises. You may also see them labeled miniature irises or rock garden irises. Iris danfordia is a sunny yellow with brown specks; I. reticulata comes in shades of blue, purple, lavender, maroon, white, and yellow. It has bright yellow and/or white markings on the petals. This species has a number of named cultivars, including ‘Harmony’ (deep  cornflower blue) and ‘J.S. Dijt’  (very deep purple). All the photos on this page are I. reticulata. (Hybrid irises typically sold as “Dutch Iris” are larger, and bloom later in the summer.)


The Early Birder…

American Avocet_AlamosaNWR-CO_LAH_2180… catches the bird. While it’s not wise to be an early worm, being an early birder pays off. You’ll see more birds than those who sleep in and, if you’re a bird photographer, you’ll have better light to capture them by.

I was once again reminded of this during a couple of back-to-back visits to the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge, in south-central Colorado.


My Favorite Cucumbers

cucumber-greenhouse-2008sept08-lah-314Sliced onto a green salad, garnishing Thai food, chopped and added to chicken sandwich spread, pickled on a burger, or just sprinkled with salt and munched as a snack, cucumbers are as cool as, well, a cucumber, and the perfect food for the hot days of summer.

Cucumbers hail from hot and humid southeast Asia, a climate that couldn’t be more different from high, dry Colorado. I’ve often imagined a baby cucumber seedling popping its cotyledons out of the ground, only to be hit with the cold, dry winds of spring. Realizing cruel fate has somehow caused it to end up in Colorado, it immediately despairs, shrivels, and dies!