Human Flower Project

Get Thee to a Windowbox

A “darling” little shamrock has become imperialist. When you choke the iris, you must go.


Wood sorrel competing with, and prevailing over, iris

March 2010, Austin, Texas

Photo: Human Flower Project

They call it “windowbox sorrel,” and now we know why. This sweet little pink oxalis needs a sturdy vessel and three feet in the air to contain it – constant oversight, too.

There were a few clumps two years ago in the beds up next to the house. Delightful! Their three-leaves began appearing in February, and by St. Patrick’s Day were thick and ineradicably “lucky”-looking. So we let the shamrocks go.

Last year, with loads of good new soil, they’d spread, and this year they have just about buried the iris japonica – a wonderful passalong from Scott Thurman.  Stan Powers recommended spreading the iris to a second bed out front, and it’s flowering abundantly there this spring.


Iris japonica, thriving in its new (oxalis-free) bed, Austin, Texas

Photo: Human Flower Project

Meanwhile, Oxalis articulata ssp. rubra (or perhaps Oxalis corymbosa?) has choked out the iris in their original bed. They look scraggly, and only two have bloomed.

Too late, we began pulling the oxalis up; then, friend and neighbor Margaret Adie broke the hard news to us. This oxalis grows from a little bulb. We’d have to dig them all up!

Stan stopped by the other day and counseled surrender. He may be right. But after seeing the beautiful iris in full bloom just across the doorstep, we can’t. We’ve started fishing the oxalis out. The bigger bulbs are only about the size of chick peas. Many more are really small: pellet-sized. In other words, we’re going to miss lots of them, and they’ll be back.


A “large” bulb of Oxalis articulata ssp. rubra (?), one of a kazillion to be removed

Photo: Human Flower Project

We hope that gardeners who’ve tangled with (or surrendered to) this plant will send advice. After several hours, we seemed to be getting the hang of removing the bulbs, but there are many days of this effort ahead. Short cuts, anyone?

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