For the Love of Iris

Iris ‘Stairway to Heaven’

~

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.

~

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

~

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.

~

~

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.

~

~

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.

~

I. ‘Echo Location’

~

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.

~

~

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.

~

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

~

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.

~

~

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.

~

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.

~

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.

~

~

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.

~

Winter blooming Iris histrioides in January

~

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.

~

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

~

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.

~

~

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.

~

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

~

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.

~

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.

~

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.

~

Siberian Iris

~

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.

~

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

~

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.

~

I. ‘Immortality’

~

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…..

~

~

Woodland Gnome 2017

~

Making Our Blessings Count

november-20-2016-clematis-002

~

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful

for every good thing that comes to you,

and to give thanks continuously.

And because all things

have contributed to your advancement,

you should include all things

in your gratitude.”

.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

~

Happy Thanksgiving day to you.  I hope it has been a good day, spent in a way that makes you happy and with folks you love.   Thanksgiving is a gentle holiday, and one that I especially enjoy.  I try to avoid travel and keep the day as low key as possible.

Whether at home with family, or gathered elsewhere with family, I’m always one of the cooks.  And I find satisfaction in creating a warm and satisfying meal filled with the flavors and memories which knit our years together into a seamless fabric of loving.

While we celebrate gratitude and appreciation on Thanksgiving Day, most of us are also gearing up for Christmas this time of year.  For many, that means sharpening up our shopping skills and compiling a list of holiday plans and desires.  Ironic, isn’t it?

~

August's white flowers are transformed to seed heads, ready to begin again the life cycle of culinary chives.

August’s white flowers are transformed to seed heads, ready to begin again the life cycle of culinary chives.

~

“We should certainly count our blessings,

but we should also make our blessings count.”

.

Neal A. Maxwell

~

Thanks-giving is not a passive thing.  It isn’t about leaning back in our comfy chairs and thinking happy thoughts.

It begins with awareness; progresses to acknowledgement;  stops for a moment to express appreciation and love to others; and then gets down to the real business of using those blessings for the greater good.

Having a blessing isn’t enough.  We find ways to  make use of the goodness it brings to our lives, to make our lives count for something.

I’ve always thought of appreciation as an active thing; an investment in more joy and productivity.  What good are seeds left in an envelope?

~

november-24-2016-thanksgiving-011

~

“Great things happen to those

who don’t stop believing, trying,

learning, and being grateful.”

.

Roy T. Bennett

~

Which brings us back to those holiday desires, which can wake us up and move us forwards.

Whether we’re formulating birthday wishes, sharing a Christmas list, planning a Christmas celebration, or pondering new year’s resolutions; we harness our imagination, our desire, and our personal energies to create a new reality for ourselves.

Gratitude and growth go hand in hand.  We appreciate the blessings we enjoy already, and then multiply that sense of happiness and well being into the next step.    We express appreciation to a loved one, in hopes they will use that good feeling as fuel for their own growth and evolution.

There is always more to accomplish, more to experience, more to learn, more to do for the benefit of others.  We just have to imagine it, and then fuel it with faith and confidence until it materializes in our lives.

Wisdom teachers tell us that our gratitude and appreciation attract more of the same into our lives.

But the reverse is also true:  when we complain and focus on what is lacking, when we criticize loved ones and take them for granted; we lose that rocket fuel called ‘love’ which feeds our happiness.  When we overlook the tiny miracles and blessings of each day, we put blinders on our hearts and imagination.  Eventually, we close ourselves off to the possibilities around us.

~

november-24-2016-thanksgiving-019~

“You probably have the ability

to get what you want.

And you likely have everything you need

to be completely satisfied.

But do you also have the ability

to want what you’ve got?

That just may be one of

the most important questions you will ever answer.”

.

Steve Goodier

~

But we all find obstacles in our path from time to time.  Perhaps a loved one’s illness or depression makes us put our own lives on ‘hold’ for a while.  We lose jobs we need, see the storms of chance change our lives in unexpected ways.  Things just don’t go according to plan….

Obstacles become detours, but the path stretches before us for as long as we live.  And meeting every obstacle with an open mind, a grateful heart, and determination to find the most benevolent outcome in each circumstance is how we keep moving towards a brighter, happier, more fulfilling life.

“Attitude is everything…”  We learn this as children, but practice it always.  Our attitude of gratitude serves us well, as we appreciate each and every day of our lives.

~

november-24-2016-thanksgiving-013

~

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

.

A Forest Garden 2017 garden calendar is now available

~

november-24-2016-thanksgiving-020

~

“Thankfulness is an attitude of possibilities,

not an attitude of liabilities.”

.

Craig D. Lounsbrough

Wednesday Vignettes: Fall Flowers

October 28, 2015 Crocus 019

~

Spring or fall, it nearly always rains on our Iris as they open.  These Iris never seem to mind.  They hold up to downpours and wind better than most any other flower we grow.  A lone bee hummed around this first Iris of autumn as I photographed it late this afternoon.

We’ve been watching this stalk of blooms grow for several weeks, and finally, today, the first bud has opened.

~

October 28, 2015 Crocus 016

~

The rain falling on our garden these last few days has made the ground soft again, and has awakened many of the bulbs we’ve planted this fall.  We welcome the rain, and enjoy the life it brings to the garden.  These fall Crocus popped up very suddenly, almost overnight, blooming for their first season in our garden.

~

October 28, 2015 Crocus 010

~

Everywhere we find flowers blooming.  Fall is our second spring, and we treasure these days of warmth before winter settles over us again.

~

October 28, 2015 Crocus 011

~

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

~

Reblooming Iris 'Rosalie Figge'

Reblooming Iris ‘Rosalie Figge’

~

Thanks to Anna of Flutter and Hum for hosting Wednesday Vignettes each week.

 

 

Roses For Mother’s Day

May 10, 2015 Roses 003

~

“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.”

.

Shannon L. Alder

~

May 10, 2015 Roses 001

~

“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.”

.

Carol Deppe

~

May 10, 2015 Roses 004

~

“No one plants rosebushes for the thorns.”

.

Marty Rubin

~

May 10, 2015 Roses 007

~

“When tended the right way, beauty multiplies.”

.

Shannon Wiersbitzky

~

~

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.

~

May 10, 2015 Roses 012

~

Happy Mother’s Day!

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

In A Vase On Monday: Iris In Bloom

May 4, 2015 garden 031

~

When the weather finally warms, the Iris spring into action by sending up wonderful thick stalks of fragrant, intensely colored buds.  I’ve loved Iris of all sorts since childhood.  My parents once received several grocery bags full of Iris fans from a friend who bred them.

~

May 4, 2015 garden 004

~

He was thinning his patch, and gave us the most wonderfully scented varieties we had ever experienced.  We planted them all around our home, and my parents tried to move a few of each variety every time they moved thereafter.  Some gardens are better for Iris than others, but they left a legacy of beautiful Iris everywhere they lived.

~

First blooms of Iris established in this new bed last summer.  The golden Iris is I. 'Harvest of Memories,' which reblooms in our climate.

First blooms of Iris established in this new bed last summer. The golden Iris is I. ‘Harvest of Memories,’ which re-blooms in our climate.

~

Iris need full sun and relatively rich soil.  They want their roots moist but their rhizomes somewhat exposed and dry.  Those rhizomes creep and expand the clumps over time if they are sited where they are happy, and so there is a constant supply of rooted fans to chop off and share or spread to other parts of the garden.

~

Re-blooming Iris I. 'Rosalie Figge' and I. 'Lunar Whitewash' bloom again each autumn.

Re-blooming Iris I. ‘Rosalie Figge’ and I. ‘Lunar Whitewash’ bloom again each autumn.

~

I’ve purchased several varieties of re-blooming Iris for this garden from Mike Lockatell, a breeder of re-blooming Iris in the Richmond area.  I’ve also received an old variety of Iris popular around Williamsburg from a gardening friend.

~

This old variety can be found in Colonial Williamsburg gardens, and in many neighbors' yards around the community.  These plants were a gift from a gardening neighbor.

This old variety can be found in Colonial Williamsburg gardens, and in many neighbors’ yards around the community. These plants were a gift from a gardening neighbor.

~

Blogging friends have generously sent me clumps of their Iris, and I’ve purchased a few.  I’m working on building a good collection of beautiful Iris plants  in our sunny areas here.

~

May 4, 2015 garden 036

~

My partner loves our Iris, and was less than enthusiastic when I mentioned cutting some from the garden for today’s vase.  So I cut only one, and that one where I didn’t think he would notice.  I’ve taken only photos of some of the other Iris in bloom today.

~

May 4, 2015 garden 034~

Also in today’s vase are the last of the ‘Josee’ lilac, some apple mint, more Aquilegia,  a stem of Azalea, and a bit of dusty miller.

~

May 4, 2015 garden 028

~

The vase today is actually a handle-less mug purchased last week at Mossy Creek Pottery on the Oregon Coast.  I love the soft blues and greens of its glaze, and the sculpted shape which fits my fingers perfectly.  It also makes a pretty good vase, don’t you think?  It is half filled with aquarium gravel to hold the stems in place.

~

May 4, 2015 garden 030

~

I appreciate Cathy’s dedication to her “Vase” meme each week at Rambling in the Garden.    She is away this week, and yet she has given us a bouquet and a post most creatively.

I hope you will visit her blog to see how she has posted a unique ‘vase’ while away from her garden, and to enjoy what other gardeners have found in their gardens in these first days of May.  I am always delighted with the beautiful arrangements she creates and hope you visit to enjoy them, too.

I am settling back into my garden, finally, and am so happy to enjoy these wonderfully fragrant flowers we’ve waited for all winter.  You probably know that it takes a few years for Iris to establish and perform.  What a wonderful experience when they finally come into bloom each May.

~

May 4, 2015 garden 025~

Woodland Gnome 2015

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 528 other followers

Follow Forest Garden on WordPress.com
Order Classic Caladiums

This Month’s Posts

Topics of Interest