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

 

Roses For Mother’s Day

May 10, 2015 Roses 003

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“It is easier to tell a person what life is not,

rather than to tell them what it is.

A child understands weeds

that grow from lack of attention, in a garden.

However, it is hard to explain the wild flowers

that one gardener calls weeds,

and another considers beautiful ground cover.”

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Shannon L. Alder

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May 10, 2015 Roses 001

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“We gardeners are healthy, joyous, natural creatures.

We are practical, patient, optimistic.

We declare our optimism every year, every season,

with every act of planting.”

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Carol Deppe

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May 10, 2015 Roses 004

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“No one plants rosebushes for the thorns.”

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Marty Rubin

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May 10, 2015 Roses 007

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“When tended the right way, beauty multiplies.”

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Shannon Wiersbitzky

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When my daughter was still very young, I decided I would rather be given a potted rose bush for Mother’s Day than a dozen cut roses. 

That simple wish was a defining moment for me.  It meant that no matter how life’s circumstances may shift from year to year, I am surrounded by soft, fragrant roses every May. 

Now I cut from my abundance to share with those I love.

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May 10, 2015 Roses 012

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Happy Mother’s Day!

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

For the Love of May

Indica hybrid Azalea "Formosa"

Indica hybrid Azalea “Formosa”

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May brings perfume to the garden and joy to the soul. 

It is the happiest month of the whole year to me.  Spring’s warmth has settled comfortably over the garden so the last of the shrubs and perennials finally stir from their winter slumber to send out their first green leaves, which let you know they have survived winter.

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Mayapples

Mayapples

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Taxes are completed and forgotten for another year.  The first fresh local strawberries ripen, tomatoes may be planted, songbirds are nesting, and school is nearly out.

May is for proms, graduations, Mother’s Day, births and weddings.  It is a month for successfully completing long lived goals.   Happiness is almost a tangible fragrance in the air.

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May 7, 2015 garden 021

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Our roses always bloom by Mother’s Day, but our first bud opened in all of its warm beauty yesterday!

Our shrubs are absolutely covered in buds this year, by the way.  The air is soft and filled with the fragrance of sweet iris and freshly cut grass.  The mint has grown tall enough to harvest, and I’m finally planting this summer’s crop of Basil.

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May 7, 2015 garden 002

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I spotted a hummingbird for the first time today flitting from one Columbine blossom to another.  A snapping turtle chose a quiet area to dig a nest and lay her eggs this morning.

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May 7, 2015 garden 022

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The closing weeks of May serve as a “soft opening” for summer. 

May is for switching over to the summer wardrobe and buying new sandals.  We greet May with Cinco de Mayo and bid it farewell with Memorial Day and the opening of community pools.

May is for the first beach trips of the season, enjoying long twilit evenings on the deck, and catching up with the farmers who run the local farm stand.  We re-arrange the deck for a new season, re-plant the pots, and remember our summer routines.

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May 7, 2015 garden 009

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My summer routine finds me in the garden most mornings watering, observing, trimming, and taking photos.  Listening to the chatter of birds and the whirr of hummingbird wings, I take note of what needs attention that day.  And we celebrate each new wonder as it unfolds.

Yesterday brought the Mountain Laurel opening the first of its flowers.

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Mountain Laurel

Mountain Laurel

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Today brought more roses opening and more Iris.  And today I finally installed that new planting bed that I’ve been contemplating since February.

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May 7, 2015 garden 017

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Of course May also brings Mayflies and sunburn, summer heat and higher gas prices.  Every month has its stresses, its true.

Yet May holds more happiness than most.  And I’m partial to any month which brings me iris and  roses…

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May 5, 2015 garden 009

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Woodland Gnome 2015

 

 

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