Blue-eyed Grass

So, why don't I have Sisyrinchium in my garden? I should. And so should you. There's nothing not to love about it.

Virtually maintenance-and-problem-free, the most beautiful shades of blue or purple or yellow you'll ever see. Depending on the species they want seasonably wet or good-drainage dry; in other words, there is a Sisyrinchium suitable for nearly any garden setting.

Members of the Iris family, these dainty and diminutive plants are like jewels in the garden. Narrow, grassy leaves that stand in a clump to support the flowering stems that carry simple six-petal flowers of the most intense blue to purple to yellow. They form clumps, they self-seed. They, for the most part, need fairly abundant moisture for at least part of the year. That's about it. They will make you happy.

The only down side, is that they tend to sometimes be somewhat short-lived; you may have some and then one year they're gone. A good argument for saving seed or dividing clumps.

There are close to sixty native species of Sisyrinchium in this hemisphere. Here are ours:

sisyrinchium bellum

Sisyrinchium bellum: Blue-eyed Grass

Deciduous. Can grow up to sixteen inches tall, though usually shorter, with miniature, iris-like leaves, and smallish, five-petal blue flowers that appear from mid spring to mid-summer. It prefers full sun and moist to wet conditions, especially in spring. It typically goes summer dormant, and so can take the dry in the summer months as part of its normal cycle. Often confused with Sisyrinchium angustifolium, which is similar in appearance, but which is an east coast native.

Sisyrinchium californicum 7

Sisyrinchium californicum: Yellow-eyed Grass

This one does well in any wet, sunny spot in the garden. It typically grows on the margins of lakes, bogs and other wet places. This is the Sisyrinchium that requires the most moisture, the wettest place in the garden (one year at the nursery, under the sprinkler system, it self-seeded in the gravel at the base of the tables in the native section!). The flowers are a beautiful, bright, buttery yellow, and will self-seed somewhat aggressively in situations that are moist enough (would that be so bad?).

sisyrinchium douglasii

Sisyrinchium douglasii: Purple-eyed Grass, Grass Widow

This Sisyrinchium is from a different region, and now apparently has a different taxonomy altogether! It can now more commonly found as Olysynium douglasii. I don't quite understand the change in taxonomy, but it is quite different from its brethren. It is still a smallish clumping plant; its leaves are less blade-like, and it tends to grow in drier conditions. The flower is a deep, intense reddish-purple, with larger, rounded petals than the other Sisyrinchium. It also blooms earlier in the spring. Similar, but different.