Native Here Nursery is always full of exquisite flora native to the East Bay, and right now we are particularly enamored of our selection of Iris douglasiana, or Douglas iris. Boasting gorgeous blooms in shades of velvety purple and blue with shiny, evergreen foliage, Douglas iris is easy to care for, adaptable to both sun or shade, is able to grow under oaks, and requires very little water. Their ease of care and versatility make Douglas iris a great choice for folks new to gardening with California native plants and experienced gardeners alike.

M. Nevin Smith says of the Douglas iris in his book Native Treasures: “For sheer elegance, few flowers rival those of the iris….Douglas iris is a fine garden subject. In addition to its beauty, it is notable for its vigor, ease of culture, and …floral form.“

He goes on to say that  “…they are also long lived perennials, producing graceful fountains of evergreen leaves astride a branched rhizome at or just below ground level.”

In the garden, “…they are appropriate for formal border use but even more attractive in informal drifts, whether in odd nooks or large areas of the garden. Just as they do in nature, they thrive in cultivation under oaks, where their minimal summer water needs can be met by only occasional irrigation beyond fog drip…the plants require little active care. Reasonably well-drained acid soil is appreciated, particularly if the plants are to be summer irrigated. Up to the point where leaf tips begin to die back prematurely (this is normal in fall and winter with older leaves), the less supplemental irrigation, the better, for purposes of avoiding disease. Once a year, in late winter, you may want to tidy up the clumps by removing dead leaves, which take a while to rot away…”

Nancy Bauer suggests Douglas iris as part of a lawn alternative in her book The California Wildlife Habitat Garden, while Glen Keator and Alrie Middlebrook suggest using Douglas iris with bulbs on a hillside, or in any woodland garden setting, in their book Designing California Native Gardens.  In EBMUD’s Plants and Landscapes for Summer-Dry Climates Douglas iris are described as being “…especially well suited to the Bay Region.”

So if you’re looking for an easy-to-grow, unfussy plant that requires very little maintenance and almost no supplemental water to look gorgeous year-round, take a look at our native Iris douglasiana.

Speaking of watering, we’re reaching the end of our nature-assisted watering season—it seems as though our 2015-2016 El Niño rains are over. Almost all plants put into the ground now, regardless of how drought tolerant they are, will require supplemental watering to get established.

This also means that our stock at the nursery will require watering by volunteers, not just nature. If you have an hour or so each week, watering at Native Here is a great way to be involved with our community of people and our community of plants that we grow from the East Bay. After a quick orientation, watering volunteers can set their own schedules, including weekend hours when the nursery is not open to the general public.

We have metal plant tags available for purchase—perfect for those of you getting your gardens groomed for the 2016 Bringing Back the Natives tours. We will be oipen the weekend of the Bringing Back The Natives Garden Tour (April 30 and May 1) from 10 to 5 each day.

Amy Leonard
Manager, Native Here Nursery

Dourlas iris in Joe Willingham’s garden.  Photo by David Margolies.
Dourlas iris in Joe Willingham’s garden. Photo by David Margolies.