Six on Saturday: Iris in Bloom

German Bearded Iris ‘Rosalie Figge’

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Iris perfectly blend color, fragrance, geometry and grace.

I’ve spent the last six months delving into the details of the genus and am delighting now in watching them unfold their perfect standards and falls.

The appearance of Iris each spring still feels like a bit of natural magic.  From a slender green stem, the intensely pure colors emerge as each flower unfolds.

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Iris tectorum, Japanese roof Iris, can be grown on traditional thatched roofs.  It was a status symbol in some Japanese communities to have a roof covered with blooming Iris.  This is a crested Iris, like our native Iris cristata.

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Watching an Iris bud open reminds me of how a butterfly emerges from its chrysalis, ever so slowly stretching and unfolding its wings.  Both grow so large one wonders how they could have possibly fit into their sheath.  While a butterfly soon flies off in search of nectar and a mate, Iris blossoms remain anchored to their stems, hovering above the garden in motionless flight.

Our Iris continue to multiply in the garden.  I’ve been collecting them, dividing them, and have even received some as gifts.  Most bloom only once each year, and then for only a few weeks.  But what an amazing sight to anticipate through the long weeks of winter, knowing that spring will bring Iris blossoms once again.  Collecting different types of Iris extends the period of bloom, and planting re-blooming iris offers the tantalizing promise of an encore in autumn.

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Iris pallida, a European species Iris brought to Virginia by the colonists, is one of the species used in German bearded Iris hybrids.

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There is a fellowship of Iris lovers extending back through our recorded history.  We see Iris carved into bas reliefs in Egyptian temples, and Iris flowers were admired in ancient Greece.  The Babylonians grew them, and Iris grew wild across the hills of Turkey and meadows of Europe.  There are more than 150 species of Iris, and many of our garden Iris are hybrids of two or more species.

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Native Iris cristata

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Tough and persistent, Iris are easy to grow, once you understand what each variety needs.   It is easy to fall in love with Iris plants in bloom.  And that is the best way to buy them, so you know exactly what you are planting.  Since most are hybrids, gardeners rarely grow Iris from seeds.

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Some Iris grow from bulbs, most from rhizomes.  Some may come in the mail as bare-root plants.  You may have to wait a year or two for the first bloom when you buy divisions.

For immediate satisfaction, look for potted Iris plants in bloom.  You will know exactly what colors you are adding to your garden and know you have a healthy plant to start.

Then, just wait for the beauty to multiply with each passing year.

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Iris x hollandica ‘Silver Beauty’

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Woodland Gnome 2019
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Many thanks to the wonderful ‘Six on Saturday’ meme sponsored by The Propagator.

 

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Six on Saturday: Fresh Colors of Spring

Scarlet buckeye echoes the fresh leaves of our crape myrtle in the upper garden.

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“Color is simply energy, energy made visible.
Colors stimulate or inhibit
the functioning of different parts of our body.
Treatment with the appropriate color
can restore balance and normal functioning.”
.
Laurie Buchanan, PhD
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Columbine has spread itself with dropped seeds, from a single plant or two.

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Our garden fills itself with more color each day.  We love watching the various leaves and flowers unfold, revealing their beauty, bit by bit.

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Native Iris cristata

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The color palette shifts and changes as we move deeper into the season.  More and more colors appear, filling our forest garden with beauty.

This week we’ve enjoyed the emerging pinks and reds as azaleas have bloomed, the scarlet buckeye tree covered itself with flowers, and the new hybrid crape myrtle leaves began to emerge.  Its leaves will stay fairly dark, in the purplish range, through the summer.

Winter clothes itself in greys and browns, summer in greens.  Autumn erupts in reds, yellows and golds.  But spring gives us delicate shades of yellows and blues, white, pink, scarlet and fresh pale green.

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Wood hyacinths finally reveal their delicate blue flowers.

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“I celebrate life with a different color each day.
That way, each day is different.”
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Anthony Hincks

Color shows us the vibration of light.   Physicists and philosophers teach us that our world is wholly composed of light and energy’s vibration.

Some light vibrates so rapidly that our eyes won’t register it at all, and some light vibrates too slowly for our eyes to see.  But other eyes, in other creatures, can see what we can not.  We see the spectrum allowed to our human species, and the colors we see effect how we think and feel.

Perhaps that is why we feel joy on a spring time day, surrounded by such pure, vibrant colors.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2019

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“For colour is one of the most rapturous truths
that can be revealed to man.”
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Harold Speed

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Iris pallida are the first to open this year, though we noticed the first German bearded Iris opened during the storms, overnight.  I. pallida is one of the European species Iris used in many German bearded Iris hybrids.  It was first brought to our area by European colonists in the Seventeenth Century and can be found growing in Colonial Williamsburg gardens. These were a gift from a friend.

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Yes, a bonus #7 photo today, just because the Iris are blooming and it’s spring!  N. ‘Salome’ in the pot bloom to close the Narcissus season for another year.

Six on Saturday: Embracing Spring

Dwarf German bearded Iris ‘Sailboat Bay’ surprised me on Wednesday with the first bearded Iris bloom of spring.

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Embracing spring invites us to embrace change.  Mid-April finds the landscape stuck on ‘fast-forward’ as changes unfold around us every hour of every day.  There is always something new emerging to delight, even as flowers finish and petals drop in the wind and rain.

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Columbine prepares to bloom even as the daffodils finish.

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There are seasons within seasons, and springtime certainly embraces many stages of phenological change.  From the earliest snowdrops and Crocus we have progressed now to dogwoods, Iris, columbine, and the swelling buds on peonies. We saw Wisteria explode this week in cascades of lilac and white flowers in trees, on homes and fences and growing wild in the woods.  It is one of the most beautiful sights of spring here, and promises only warmer days to come.

Nearly all the trees have tender expanding leaves now, and every box store and nursery offers bright flowers and little veggie starts.  Temptation waits everywhere for a gardener like me!

I bought our first basil on Thursday, with full confidence that it will thrive from here on through summer, after a Master Gardener friend gave me one of her plants that morning.  I trust her judgement that the season is now ripe for growing basil and other summer herbs.

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Iris cristata, one of our native Iris species in this area, expands to bloom more abundantly each spring. This is a miniature Iris with crests on each fall instead of beards.

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Looking ahead, our forecast promises warming nights and abundant rain.  I’ve been blowing leaves away and mulching beds all week, adding compost and planting out the plants I’ve been squirreling away for this moment.  We picked up our new Dahlias and Cannas, Alocasias and other bulbs from the bulb shop in Gloucester last week.  I’ve even been telling gardening friends that our Caladium plants can come out soon.  I believe the tubers will be safe now, unless late April holds an unforeseen surprise!

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Ajuga blooms among emerging ferns.  This is Athyrium niponicum ‘Applecourt,’ a deciduous Japanese painted fern.

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Embracing spring means celebrating the changes to our warming Earth.  Life returns to woody branches and the ground erupts in wildflowers and green.  Perennials reappear like children playing ‘hide and seek.’

We see nature starring in her annual mystery play, a script written millennia ago; and re-enacted each year.

Every blooming Iris and diligent bee reassures us that the players all know their parts and will follow their cues.   And we are each a part of this never-ending story.  Whether we simply sit back and observe, or take an active part with secateurs, shovel and rake; we are each embraced by the rich beauties and sweetness of spring.

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A young dogwood blooms against our fallen redbud tree, still leaning after our December snowstorm. I am sure the trees will figure out how to coexist.

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Woodland Gnome 2019

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“Everything is connected.

The wing of the corn beetle affects the direction of the wind,

the way the sand drifts,

the way the light reflects into the eye of man beholding his reality.

All is part of totality,

and in this totality man finds his hozro,

his way of walking in harmony,

with beauty all around him.”
.

Tony Hillerman

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Many thanks to the wonderful ‘Six on Saturday’ meme sponsored by The Propagator.

 

 

Fabulous Friday: In Bloom

Foxglove

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This time of year we linger along the drive, admiring the garden in bloom.  Stately Iris stand tall, their long bloom stalks clothed in fragrant blues and golds and purples and whites.

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The Siberian Iris bloomed yesterday… literally.  In the early morning there was a single bud unfolding.  By mid-day, there was a bouquet of intense blue.  The garden is unfolding so quickly this week that if you stand still for more than a few breaths, it has changed before your wondering eyes.

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Siberian Iris, a gift from a gardening friend.

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Imagine my surprise to notice the plump, unmistakable buds of an Amaryllis emerging from the Earth on Monday.

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Amaryllis, Hippeastrum SA ‘Graffiti’

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We enjoy Amaryllis in winter, when little else will bloom.  They comfort us through the dull wet days of February from their pot on the dining table.

And then, I like to plant the bulbs out into the perennial beds in March, and hope to see them again sometime, if they survive.  So it was that I planted out a half dozen bulbs the spring before last.  And I never remembered to dig them and bring them in last fall… a seasonal casualty of letting myself become distracted, perhaps…

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And the Amaryllis “Graffitti’ survived our very long, cold winter, rewarding our neglect with these beautiful blooms, this first week of May.  Sometimes unlikely pleasures feel the most satisfying.

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Azalea, some of the few buds left to us by the hungry deer, this spring.

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When you come to think of it, flowers erupting from plants frozen and dormant just a few weeks ago is a rather unlikely prospect.  After all they’ve been through, they’d be forgiven for sulking a bit and basking in this new-found warmth before performing.

But no, they are eager to get on with it!  Our garden woodies and perennials live to bloom, and then perhaps to set seeds.  We are all interested in the next generation, now, aren’t we?

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Mountain Laurel, one of our native shrubs

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Or is it just the pleasure of hosting bees and hummingbirds that motivates these outrageous blooms?  There is nothing particularly shy about an Amaryllis, or an Iris.   And for this, we are grateful as we celebrate their season of bloom.

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Iris, ‘Stairway to Heaven’ (reblooming)

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And so we linger as we come and go on our daily errands.  And we find reason to wander in the garden, watering, trimming, planting; and dreaming of the many weeks of beauty still ahead as spring relaxes into summer.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2018

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For the Daily Post’s
Weekly Photo Challenge:  Unlikely

Fabulous Friday:  Happiness is contagious… Let’s infect one another!

On the Eve of May

The first rays of morning sun fuel our garden this last day of April.

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May is already upon us.  The garden has filled with flowers, and there are more waiting each morning as we walk outside, to see what has changed overnight.

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Iris ‘Echo Location’

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This is Iris season, and Columbine season, and the grass is filled with wildflowers season.

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Native fleabane, probably Erigeron pulchellus, grow in our front lawn. A short lived perennial, this patch grows a bit larger each year. After it finishes flowering, we will mow this part of the ‘lawn’ once again.

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It all grows unbelievably fast in late April and early May, and I am busily trying to work with the season.

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Erigeron is a native wildflower in our area.  Too pretty to cut back, we have let it have its real estate in the front yard.

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That said, it was only 41F when I followed the sun out of bed this morning.  Neighbors in nearby towns had temperatures near freezing over night, and so I don’t yet trust the weather with so many of our tender, tropical plants.  I am crossing my fingers and toes, and planting out as much as I dare, just as quickly as I can.

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I was a bit surprised to notice the trellis filled with blooming Clematis this morning.

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Spring rolls over us like a wave, before cresting into full on summer.  And I am working to ride that wave as the garden awakens.

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This is the time to set things right; to establish what will grow where, and how, for the next six months.

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Columbine

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But everywhere I look, I see something new.  I see opening leaves, emerging perennials, and unfolding buds.

May’s magic lives in our garden, and I hope it lives in yours, as well.

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Woodland Gnome 2018

After experimenting for the past several days with my new Canon Power Shot Elph 180, I am back to my Nikon Coolpix S3500.  Trying to focus in on the fleabane flowers proved the utility of my little Nikon, which lives in the inside pocket of my gardening vest.  It has crossed the country with me a couple of times now, and is officially obsolete in the world of pocket cameras.  But it still takes a great photo and leaves me satisfied.

 

 

Sunday Dinner: “Be Fruitful”

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“Don’t sit at home and wait
for mango tree to bring mangoes to you wherever you are.
It won’t happen.
If you are truly hungry for change,
go out of your comfort zone
and change the world.”
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Israelmore Ayivor

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“True passion motivates the life forces
and brings forth all things good.
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Gabriel Brunsdon

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Double Narcissus ‘Gay Tabour’

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“Try not to become a man of success.
Rather become a man of value.”
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Albert Einstein

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“There is no season of your life
that you cannot produce something.”
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Bidemi Mark-Mordi

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“To be fruitful
is to understand the process of growth”
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Sunday Adelaja

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2018
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“It had long since come to my attention
that people of accomplishment
rarely sat back and let things happen to them.
They went out and happened to things.”
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Leonardo da Vinci

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“Success is not how high you have climbed,
but how you make a positive difference to the world.”
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Roy T. Bennett

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Garden Magic

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“They were full of mysteries and secrets,

like… like poems turned into landscapes.”

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Jaclyn Dolamore

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“Gardens are made of darkness and light entwined.”

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F.T. McKinstry

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“Entering a garden like Bomarzo

was like succumbing to a dream.

Every detail was intended

to produce a specific effect on the mind and body,

to excite and soothe the senses like a drug.

To awaken the unconscious self.”

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Linda Lappin

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“Gardens and chocolate

both have mystical qualities.”

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Edward Flaherty

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“Magic exists. Who can doubt it,

when there are rainbows and wildflowers,

the music of the wind

and the silence of the stars?

Anyone who has loved has been touched by magic.

It is such a simple

and such an extraordinary part of the lives we live.”

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Nora Roberts

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

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“The older a wizard grows, the more silent he becomes,

like a woody vine growing over time

to choke a garden path, deep

and full of moss and snakes,

running everywhere, impenetrable.”

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F.T. McKinstry,

For the Love of Iris

Iris ‘Stairway to Heaven’

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I fell in love with Iris as a child.  My parents accepted a gift of Iris rhizomes from a retired friend, who happened to hybridize and grow German bearded Iris.  Dad came home one summer evening with his trunk loaded with paper grocery bags, each containing the mud caked rhizomes his friend had dug and discarded from his working garden.  He needed to repurpose the  space for his new seedlings.

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I’ve been searching for those intensely colored and perfumed Iris cultivars I remember from childhood. This is one of the closest I’ve found.  Iris ‘Medici Prince’ available from Brecks.com

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My mother looked at the sheer volume of gifted plants. A conversation followed about what to do with them all.  And then, Dad started digging.  He dug long borders in our sunny Danville, Virginia back yard.  Full sun and good loam were just what those Iris needed.

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The first spring after that, we were all speechless at the absolute beauty of them.  And the fragrance!  I don’t know whether my parents’ friend was selecting for fragrance, but these were the most fragrant flowers my young nose had ever discovered.

The colors of these special Iris ranged from white to intense reds and nearly black shades of purple.  They bloomed orange and pink and many shades of blue.  I was smitten, and have loved Iris since the day these Iris first bloomed in our back yard.

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When we moved, a few years later, we labeled the Iris by color while they were in bloom so we could dig some of each variety.  Back into grocery bags, we carried this legacy to our new home.  The new place had a shadier yard, and yet we set to work digging a new Iris bed, even while still unpacking boxes and settling into the house.

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I. ‘Echo Location’

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That began a new ritual around our family’s moving.  Each time after, we would try to dig and move as many Iris as we could.  As each of us left home, and our parents aged, that became a little more challenging with each move.

Even though I dug divisions for each of my gardens over the years, we still lost many of the cultivars along the way.

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But I never lost my enthusiasm for growing Iris.  And when I learned about re-blooming German bearded Iris a few years back, I began collecting and digging new beds for Iris in sunny spots in our Forest Garden.  I bought several varieties from local breeder Mike Lockatelle, and have ordered others from online catalogs.  Now, it is as common for us to enjoy Iris in bloom in November or December as it is to enjoy them in May.

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‘Rosalie Figge’ remains my favorite of our re-blooming Iris.

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We now grow many types of Iris, ranging from the earliest winter blooming cultivars which grow only a few inches tall, to our beautiful Bearded Iris which may grow to 4′ if they are happy.  We plant a few more each year.  There is a shallow pool filled with bright yellow flag Iris in our front yard, inherited with the garden.

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A master gardener friend gave me divisions of an antique variety of bearded Iris grown in Colonial Williamsburg, and all over this area, from her own garden.  Other friends have also given us beautiful gifts of Iris over the years, and each remains special to me.  The blooming Iris remind me of friendships and loved ones; other times and places in my life.

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The ‘Williamsburg Iris’ is an antique variety found growing around Colonial Williamsburg, and in private gardens throughout our area.  Ours were a gift from a Williamsburg Master Gardener friend.

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Iris can be grown successfully and enjoyed even if you have deer grazing in your garden.  Deer will not bother them.  This is one of the reasons why we find Iris to be a good investment.  They grow quickly, and can be easily divided and spread around the garden.  They pay amazing dividends as they get better and better each year.

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Iris can be easy to grow, if you can give them hot, sunny space to spread. They are heavy feeders and perform best when grown in rich soil and are fed once or twice a year.  But without sun and space, many varieties will just fizzle out. Make sure bearded Iris get at least six hours of direct sun; more if possible.

Iris want soil that drains after a rain.  Most established Iris can tolerate fairly dry soil after they bloom, which makes them a good selection for hot climates, like ours.  Japanese Iris and Louisiana Iris species require moist soil year round, and are happy growing in standing water.

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Winter blooming Iris histrioides in January

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Sometimes, their foliage will die back; but the roots remain alive and ready to grow new leaves when conditions improve.  I was very pleasantly surprised to find these beautiful miniature Iris growing this spring.

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Iris cristata ‘Vein Mountain’ is available from Plantdelights.com. This is a North American native Crested Woodland Iris.

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I though we had lost them during last summer’s drought, when they disappeared.  I’m still waiting for our Iris pallida ‘Variegata’ to reappear, which struggled last summer, too.

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Dutch Iris, always fun to cut for a vase, grow each spring and then, like so many other bulbs, die back.  They come in an amazing array of colors and can be ordered for pennies a bulb.

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Dutch Iris can be planted alongside bearded Iris to extend the season.

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Showy Louisiana Iris don’t have a place in our garden.  They grow best with their roots always wet, usually at the edge of a pond.  I admire them, but don’t have the right conditions to grow them.  But I am always happy to grab a shovel and make a spot for more bearded Iris. 

I’ve been moving Iris around my parents’ garden, the last few years, to bring shaded plants out into the sun.  I hope to salvage and increase what is left of their collection. We are enjoying the fruits of that effort this week, as they have gorgeous Iris blooming here and there around their home.

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These yellow flag Iris grow wild along marshes and creeks in our area, as well as in our garden. They go on year after year with minimal care and maximum beauty.

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We discussed plans for a new Iris bed when I was there last weekend.  While I’m moving them, I plan to cull a few divisions for myself, too.  And, I will take them a few roots from our garden, too.

Sharing is one of the nicest things about growing Iris.  No matter how many roots you give away, more will grow.  Each division of rhizome needs at least one leaf and root.  Plant the division in amended soil, with the top of the rhizome visible.

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Siberian Iris

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Cover all roots well with good earth, and mulch lightly around the newly planted roots, without covering the exposed rhizome.  Water the plant in, and then keep the soil moist until new growth appears.  I feed our Iris Espoma Rose Tone each spring when I feed the roses.  A light application of dolomitic lime or Epsom salts makes for stronger, faster growth.

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This Iris, ‘Secret Rites,’ was new to the garden last year.

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Once each flower blooms and collapses, gently cut it away from the main stem.  A single stem may carry 5 or 6 buds, each opening at a slightly different time.

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I. ‘Immortality’

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Once all of the buds have finished, cut the stem back to its base.  Remove browned or withered leaves a few times each year, as needed.  With a minimal investment of effort, Iris give structure to the garden year round.

And when they bloom, oh, the fragrance and color they give…..

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Woodland Gnome 2017

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Blossom XXIII: Iris

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“…Every day I discover even more beautiful things.

It is intoxicating me, and I want to paint it all –

my head is bursting…”

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Claude Monet

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“The priceless lesson in the New Year

is that endings birth beginnings and beginnings birth endings.

And in this elegantly choreographed dance of life,

neither ever find an end in the other.”

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Craig D. Lounsbrough

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

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“The best is yet to be.”
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Robert Browning

Blossom XXII:  ” …and Spring After Winter…”

Sunday Dinner: Rain Kissed

April 29, 2016 Iris 008

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“The only noise now was the rain,

pattering softly with the magnificent

indifference of nature

for the tangled passions of humans.”

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Sherwood Smith

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April 29, 2016 Iris 015~

“If I were rain,
That joins sky and earth that otherwise never touch,
Could I join two hearts as well?”

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Tite Kubo

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April 29, 2016 Iris 023~

“… millions long for immortality

who don’t know what to do with themselves

on a rainy Sunday afternoon.”

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Susan Ertz

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April 29, 2016 Iris 011~

“Rainy days should be spent at home

with a cup of tea and a good book.”

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Bill Watterson

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April 29, 2016 Iris 004~

“After every storm, there is a rainbow.

If you have eyes, you will find it.

If you have wisdom, you will create it.

If you have love for yourself and others,

you won’t need it.”

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Shannon L. Alder

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April 29, 2016 Iris 043~

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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April 29, 2016 Iris 042

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“…I don’t just wish you rain, Beloved –

I wish you the beauty of storms…”

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John Geddes

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April 29, 2016 Iris 003

 

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