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H. Perennial & Old Fashioned Garden Plants & Flowers by John Wood
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Sisyrinchium Grandiflorum - Hardy Perennial

Author: John Wood

Sisyrinchium Grandiflorum - Hardy Perennials and Old Fashioned Flowers

Sisyrinchium Grandiflorum Described.

Sisyrinchium Grandiflorum - Satin-Flower, or Rush Lily; Nat. Ord. Iridaceæ.

The generic name of this flower is in reference to the grubbing of swine for its roots, and means "pig-snout." The common names may be seen, by a glance at the cut (Fig. 97), to be most appropriate; that of Satin-flower is of American origin the plant being a native of Oregon, and is in reference to its rich satiny blossom; that of Rush-lily, which is, perhaps, an even more suitable name, has been recently applied to it, I believe, in this country. It is applicable alike to the rush-like form and habit of foliage, and the lily-like purity and style of flowers. It was sent to this country in 1826, and yet it is rarely met with in English gardens. Some think it scarcely hardy in our climate in certain soils. I happen to have grown it for six years, which period includes the recent severe winters, and it has not only survived but increased in a moderate degree. This took place on rockwork facing south; in the autumn of 1881 I divided the specimen, and planted a part of it in the coldest part of my garden, which is not without clay, though far from all clay; that division is now a strong plant, and has made an extra crown; it forms the subject of the present illustration. Let me state, in passing, that it is naturally a slow grower. The very severe weather of the week previous to my writing this note, in March, 1883, when 23deg. of frost was registered, which cut down the bloom stems of Hellebores and many other well-known hardy things, did not hurt this subject very much; I am, therefore, confident of its hardiness from six years of such experience.

The flowers are 1in. to 1½in. long, and about as much across when open, of a fine purple colour, with a shining satiny appearance; the six transparent petal-like divisions are of uneven form, having short bluntish points; from the openness of the corolla the stamens and style are well exposed, and they are very beautiful. The flowers are produced when the plant is about 6in. or 9in. high, the buds being developed on a rush-like stem, and enfolded in an almost invisible sheath 2in. or 3in. from the apex. Gradually the sheath, from becoming swollen, attracts notice, and during sunshine it will suddenly burst and let fall its precious contents—a pair of beautiful flowers—which dangle on slender arching pedicels, springing from the sheath-socket. They seem to enjoy their new-born freedom, and flutter in the March wind like tethered butterflies. Their happy day, however, is soon over; their fugacious petals shrivel in three or four days. The leaves are rush-like, ribbed, and sheathed.

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Sisyrinchium Grandiflorum

I have found it to thrive in loam, both light and moderately stiff, also in vegetable soil and sand; it likes moisture, but not of a stagnant character; between large stones, at the base of rockwork, suits it in every way; it may also be grown by the side of the larger kinds of snowdrops for contrast and effect. Impatient of being disturbed, it is not wisdom to lift it for any purpose, provided it is making progress, or until it has formed strong tufts; when, if it is desirable to increase it, and during early autumn, the long roots should be got well under, and taken out of the ground as entire as possible; from their wiry nature they are then both easily cleared of earth and divided into single crowns; these should be replanted in positions deeply dug, and where they are intended to remain, being carefully arranged without any doubling up. After such pains have been taken with so well-deserving a plant, there will be little to fear for its future, no matter how severe the winter may prove.

S. g. album is a white-flowered variety, of which, however, I have had no experience. Since these lines appeared in serial form, a lady, cultivating a good collection of choice hardy flowers, has informed me that this variety is very fine, and in every way commendable.

Flowering period, March to May, according to positions or climatic conditions.


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