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Blooming Phormiums! What The?!

by germinatrix | May 22nd, 2009

I love love love Phormiums. I truly can not design a garden without them. They have everything I want – drama, color, great form … so what if they rarely bloom.

Hold it! Rarely?

phormium yellow wave, blooming her butt off phormium yellow wave, blooming her butt off

I have  a few different Phormiums in my front garden – one P. ‘Dusky Chief’, two P. ‘Yellow Wave’, one P. ‘Sea Jade’, and a smattering of P. ‘Tom Thumb’. This year, all of them save the ‘Tom Thumb’ are in bloom! Why? They have all been in my garden forever – at least 9 years – why are they blooming now?

phormium 'sea jade' tickles agave weberiphormium ‘sea jade’ tickles agave weberi

It has been a spectacular year for spiky blooms here in LA, as regular readers of this blog well know. Things have been shooting up like never before in my garden, and all over the city I am seeing things flowering that have sat, stoic and unmoving, for years. All of this abundance seems to be a confluence of late winter rains followed by a nice, long spell of moderate temperatures. In short, we had a SPRING!

We haven’t had a real spring here in at least a decade. It has either been a torrential rainy season followed by awful heat, or stingy winters with only a smattering of rain here and there. With this strange new thing called ‘Spring’, everyone who gardens in these parts has been so giddy, it’s like we are all baby gardeners again! We, who usually must content ourselves with tough, sculptural  drought tolerants suddenly have flowers to enjoy – and even those tough, bad-ass phormiums got taken by the spirit and bloomed!

hummingbird crack!hummingbird crack!

The neighborhood hummingbirds are freaking out. They are so fat and happy right now, flying around from flower to flower, barely able to keep themselves airborne because they’re so well-fed. What makes a gardener happier than the sight of a flock of hummers flying patrol over their favorite, nectar – bearing plants? It makes us feel like we’re doing something very right, even if we play the smallest part in the scheme of things, when all is said and done. Still, we can’t help but swell up with pride when a long awaited blossom finally blooms.

This post is dedicated to two awesome phormium lovers, Loree and Megan, who are pushing climactic boundaries and growing these beauties in Portland, Oregon! Now THAT’S gardening with guts!

8 Responses to “Blooming Phormiums! What The?!”

  1. Whoo!! A dedication, thanks for the namecheck! Yes, I have zone envy. I don’t know if phormiums bloom at all up here. I didn’t even know they bloomed until I saw one in California last year. I had to dash out of a business dinner to get a look at the plant in the restaurant parking lot (I’m smooth like that). I just had to pull on it to make sure it was truly attached and wasn’t an illusion.

  2. Wow, I am so honored Germi! Early in my flax growing ‘career’ I read that they would pretty much never bloom here in Portland. Then when one of mine did I felt like I had won the lottery! The hummingbirds couldn’t stay away, it was fabulous. Thank you for all the wonderful photo’s…and the dedication, I am honored! And I hope to see your garden in person someday. I love your new stalagmite design idea!

  3. Yay! Megan and Loree!
    You guys have such passion for your plants, and it is so inspiring … it makes me love gardening even more, seeing your outdoor spaces and watching them develop into unique, magical gardens – despite the zone!
    it brings to mind a favorite quote:

    “We are the magic makers, we are the dreamers of dreams…”
    – Willi Wonka

    When we push our zones, we are WILLING our gardens into being – we have a dream, and we tickle nature here and there to make it happen. People do it all the time to grow tomatoes in cooler climates, so why can’t we do the same with our ornamentals? The ‘Natives Only’ segment of the gardening world may not be on board, but I think they don’t know how to have fun.

    I love that you guys dream big, and I LOVE the magic you make!
    Blooming Phormiums in Portland! RIGHT ON!!!

  4. Oh, how lovely! How tropical! I didn’t know they bloomed.

    I, too, cannot design a garden without a phormium, even though they’re only borderline hardy (I lost mine this winter). They’re such a statement plant. The Pacific Northwest’s answer to California’s agaves. (Or wait – is that the purple cabbage?)

  5. Hi Ivette…and welcome home, from paradise…which I am sure equates to work to you by now.

    Look at them all blooming…cheeky monkeys!
    You are having an LA riot over there with all your spikey bloomers this year! (subconsciously scratches underwear.)

    It sounds like you are very similar to central Texas in terms of having a very short, if non-existant spring. Glad you got one this year!
    I always envy zones that can grow flax, it really would be something I would really get into, being a foliage fiend and all…but alas I have had no luck with it, although I have to admit I only tried it the once.

    Great shots of everything blooming their butts off!
    ESP.

  6. Petal my dear!
    The blooming of the phormiums is so special, because although it does happen – some varieties do it more than others – it still seems rare. I was on a site today where the client wants dozens of blooming phormiums removed (the client thought they were too big – I didn’t know there was such a thing!), and it broke my heart! Well, not too much – I’m grabbing as many as I can for myself! They ARE a statement plant, and who doesn’t love making a big statement?

    Ha! … purple cabbage! but I must say, I’ve seen a couple of very sexy purple cabbage plant combos …
    XOXO!

    ESP! Hi! I have to say, the Yucatan is STILL paradise – I can’t imagine it ever getting mundane. Everybody over there is just SO LOVELY! You know how it is…
    I wish my photo skills were as good as yours are, because the phormiums were hard for me to shoot! I couldn’t manage to get the blooms to make sense, so it is very gratifying for me to hear that you see the beauty – and they ARE cheeky!

    What’s this about your underwear? ;-)

    I have to take another picture of the agave down the street – the bloom is mature and has branched, so it isn’t as … um, ‘spikey’ as it was before. Absolutely awesome! I am kind of sad, because I think my Bloomspikefest 2009 may be over. Sigh. It was a great experience!
    The spring was a great surprise – I hope we can have more. There is nothing as uplifting as what happens in those few months, and I feel cheated for not having had a spring in so long. I’m lodging a complaint!
    So your phormiums freeze? Boo. It seems like, with all your wonderful nooks and crannies, you would have a nice protected spot for one or two. Is it time to try again? Maybe? Do beschornias work for you? I think they are a perfect marriage between an agave and a phormium – maybe they would be hardy enough.
    I’m going to be in Texas next week – a short visit to family in San Antonio. I wish I could hop over to Austin for a giddy garden frenzy – so many nurseries I want to visit! But alas, it’ll have to wait a few months. I miss Austin so much, and now that I know some incredible Austin gardeners, I want to visit even more!

    Hail to the power of the spikes!

  7. “Spikey Bloomers” equates to having something spikey in your bloomers, older English, referring to ladies rather large “underwear” of the time …ahem! (not that I wear bygone ladies underwear or anything) …anyhow, hence the “subconcious scratching” comment….oh never mind! :-)

    Glad you are having fun down there, how could you not! have you snorkel/dived on your visits? or are you too busy?… Oh, and I thought your photography totally captured your “bloomers”!
    Regards.
    ESP.

  8. OMG! I just bought my first phormiums today! I don’t know anything about them; I just love the look. I didn’t know that they could bloom. They’re dark green with maroon edges and they’ll go out in the front yard soon (once it stops raining here in SF bay area).