Monday, February 7, 2011

I is For Iberis

I immediately thought of IRIS when I was writing about "I".  Since I've already done three other articles on Iris, I opted for Iberis.

You may be more familiar with the common name:  "Candytuft".  Iberis sempervirens is the perennial of this Herbaceous Perennial.  Winter hardy to Zone 3 it doesn't require a lot of fussing.  Plant in average well drained soil in a sunny location.  Wet standing soil will rot and eventually kill the plant.   White fragrant flowers (may age to pink) in April and May, then take off about a third of the plant to keep it pretty and perhaps bloom again.  It doesn't appear to be aggressive here although it may be in warmer climates.

Typically about 1 x 1 foot and it may root where stems lay on the soil or may self seed.  Gardeners can either let it spread, pull and throw away, or transplant to other locations.  It does require winter protection in harsh winters - mostly from wind damage because it's an evergreen.  I mulch deeply like my holly, but you may lay evergreen over the plants or burlap as wind protection.  

Iberis is good for edging, in rock gardens, where they can flow over a wall or as a ground cover.  They list several medicinal purposes which all sound pretty creepy and I'll not list.  Let's just say I'm a skeptic on this one.

There are other Iberis and some are annuals - know what your getting and make sure it's what you want.

It's attractive to bees, butterflies and birds.  Deer may find it tasty.

The up side to Candytuft is it makes a nice erosion control while providing a mat of pretty white flowers.  Either the white flowers or the dark emerald green leaves make a pretty backdrop for spring tulips and summer gladiolas. 

If you want to try a start, nurseries and garden centers usually carry small plant starts or many stores carry the seeds.  If you choose the annual Iberis, sow when danger of frost is past - even as the base for cascading flower pots.
And just to be fair, a picture of "Mother's French Iris" to get us in the mood for those beautiful "I" flowers.

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