As Mel and I walked the Polly Ann Trail, Char and Dan Sutherby relaxed in lawn chairs by their home in downtown Leonard. Char waved. “Stop for a visit on your way back,” she hollered.

I’d met Char several times during events sponsored by the Friends of the Addison Township Library. However, I didn’t know Char’s home was the green, block cement house I admired on our walks. And I’d never met her husband.

Now was my chance for an up-close look of their two-story farmhouse and spacious gardens. The cool, sunny fall day offered the perfect climate for congenial conversation.

At last, Char announced, “The house and gardens have become too much for us. We’ll be moving up north within the year.”

“Well, I’m happy for you two, but sad for us,” I replied.

“Before we leave, I’ll give you some Blackberry lily seeds. The roots are prolific, so plant the seed where you want the flowers to steal the show. They’re small, but mighty,” Char said.

When the Sutherbys moved, Char handed a bag of dried Blackberry lily stems to a friend who relayed them to me. The black seeds clustered on the stem’s end resembled blackberries, thus the common name for Iris domestica.

Following “full sun” directions, I invested twenty-some seeds in the garden along the southern side of our garage. I also toyed with chance and sowed ten seeds in the backyard lower garden in part shade.

I offered the remaining seeds to friends and forgot the Blackberry lily until springtime when I scouted for sprouts.

Nada. My fellow gardeners who planted Char’s seeds reported the same disappointing news.

Another quick search on the internet recalled Blackberry lily seeds sometimes take three years to germinate. Flora must possess an independent spirit to find her place in my gardens. If this wee, orange blossom with red spots also known as “leopard lily” refused to bloom, so be it.

Two summers later in the midst of a sustained drought, I turned the southern corner of the garage. There, a darling dark orange bloom lifted her little, red speckled face upward. A Blackberry lily! No, two blooms and several buds!

Now, my eyes and hands know every inch of that little garden, what blooms in spring, summer, and fall. What I’d guessed a dropped and sprouted gladioli bulb had formed perfectly fanned flags unlike that of a glad.

My solitary Blackberry lily is a member of the Iris family. This endears Char’s gift to me as another friend’s hand-me down purple irises do in the same garden. Successive bloom cheers a gardener’s heart.

And more good news. These little freckled petals need no fertilization or winter protection, and are drought tolerant.

Oh, what a pleasure to find a self-sufficient guest in my garden!

Dear Reader, the architecture of the spent bloom forms a perfect spiral, which later develops into a seed pod.
Patiently, I wait to observe this miracle. To harvest and share Blackberry lily seeds as Char did.

Contact Iris at