An Iris for a New Year


A little more than a year ago, a group of us worked to renovate the decade old Iris border at the Williamsburg Botanical Garden.  The plants had been in decline for a while, having succumbed to an infection that attacked their roots and rhizomes.  Experts advised us to discard all of the old plants in the trash and start anew, with fresh soil and all new plants.

While many of the plants were clearly infected and were destroyed, I kept finding bits of healthy Irises I believed I could salvage.  And so I potted up some of the plants to re-use in the garden, and stuffed a few more questionable ones into a bag that came home with me to try to save.



It took a bit of time and care to clean up those Iris plants.  Old tissue had to be cut away and each rhizome carefully washed.  I looked for places in our forest garden where I could grow some of the more promising plants on, knowing I can divide them again in a few years, and return some healthy plants to the WBG should I end up with any varieties that we lost in the renovation.

And that is how I struck one little rhizome with a bit of healthy root into a pot, newly vacated at the end of the season, and left it to grow or die under a tree at the bottom of our drive.  It lived. 

It lived and has been growing for a little more than a year now.  It didn’t bloom last spring, but has continued to shoot up new, fresh leaves and to slowly fill out its pot.



I took this little potted Iris with me when I spoke about Irises and our Iris border renovation this fall.  By early November, the beginning of a bloom stalk was pushing up from the clump.  I was able to show it off as an example of the re-blooming Iris we highlight at the WBG.

After that last talk, I moved the Iris onto our front patio, where it is sheltered from the wind and warmed by the sun.  It sits in the protection of larger pots, near the bird fountain, where we can watch its progress from the front windows.

And today, on the very last day of 2019, it is opening into a perfect, beautiful bloom.  I’m taking this as an omen of better times to come.



How often do we look around us and sometimes feel like discarding all that has gone wrong in the past, and look for a fresh start?  There are probably times when that is the clearest path forward.   But this beautiful Iris, blooming on the last day of December; the last day of this tumultuous decade, whispers a promise that great beauty can grow from what we thought was lost.

Our belief in the endless potential and goodness of the multiverse will carry us through all manner of difficulties.  A little care, an unshakeable confidence in the power of life to prevail in the most difficult of circumstances, and a little bit of winter sunshine works all sorts of unexpected miracles in our lives.

Wishing you happiness and unlimited potential in the days ahead,



Woodland Gnome 2019

About woodlandgnome

Lifelong teacher and gardener.

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