Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Iris Project

This has been a banner year for figs and gardenias in our garden, thanks to the past dry warm winter. DH has been eating figs from the trees all summer and put up several jars of preserves besides. Delicious with bagels and cream cheese, or butter and toast. I've been thinking of making a tart with figs if I can get around the yellow jackets and bald-faced hornets that have recently started monopolizing the figs. Yellow Jackets get so aggressive around food sources this time of year.

Our gardenias, quite stingy with flowers in past years, looked like this at the end of May:

The sweet fragrance permeated the entire yard.

At the other end of the spectrum, this year was not a banner year for bearded iris in my garden. Even though I diligently kept the deadnettle off of them all winter and spring they didn't bloom very much. I got maybe a half dozen flowers in the big perennial bed. They were simply too crowded and overshadowed by other plants (four o'clocks, Brazilian Blue Sage, rugosas and Bidens) the rest of the year.

In 2011, Jessie's Song

and Jellybean.
I missed the bouquets of iris flowers this year.

Compare to 2006, when there were far fewer woody plants and overall competition:

By 2010 the iris were mostly relegated to the edges of paths where they could still shine.

This year the garden had matured right up to the paths' edge in many places and so the extra iris went up into a new bed in the front yard.

(There isn't really a daylily planted with the hydrangea in front of the house. That's a
'Spellblinder' that was taken out of the vegetable garden due to some serious clashing with
Phlox 'Robert Poore' and I was waiting for a cooldown to put it elsewhere. There's also a young
Bald Cypress that was rescued from vicious deer antlers and will find a new home this fall.)

So, barring a late freeze, there should be more iris flowers next year. I hope so. Both my paternal grandmother and maternal grandfather grew beautiful iris up in limestone country in southern Indiana years ago and I have entranced by them ever since. I should probably mulch the bed with gravel too, since voles took out the iris next to the sidewalk. The soil is much sandier and easier to dig in around the house than in the gardens below, and if it's cold Prissy would prefer to stay in her heated bed on the porch than hunt voles.

In the fall of 2010 I decided to move the path at the back of the big bed, to the very back where the two loblolly pines keep anything I plant from thriving or even living, and this created some temporary open space for iris as well. You can see a little bit of the new planting area mulched with hay in the pictures from 2011 below.

The pictures below are from the spring of 2011. I LOVE iris in mixed plantings like those below but eventually they will all have to have more of their own space, likely close to the house. The gardens below the house just have to become less work. DH is too busy to help with the garden, and there are farm projects to be done and horses to be ridden too.

I keep thinking to myself that I won't be ordering new iris anytime soon, and then I see something like this: a post about Ginny Spoon's gorgeous iris on the blog of the American Iris Society, World of Irises. I was completely smitten with the beautiful shades of rose and plum in those iris. Or Mike Unser's post about black iris. I'm not a fan of black pansies, as they truly are coal black and rather ghoulish (although perfect for Halloween), but I am a big fan of "black" tulips and iris. Black iris are in deep shimmering shades of purple or deep red. There's lots of eye candy on the AIS' facebook page as well.


  1. Sweetbay,
    My irises did NOTHING this year and the past two years so many of them have just died. I don't know what's going on with them. My garden has always been filled with them.

  2. You have so many pretty flowers!!! I hope my Jessie's Song you gave me will bloom this next Spring! It didn't bloom this year. I moved all of them to a new spot and I probably did it at the wrong time! Yours are gorgeous!

  3. oooh, I just checked out all your links and I think I'm in love with some new iris! I also remembered I need to move my black iris so it has a chance to bloom this spring. Thanks for that. I hope you have better luck getting your iris to bloom next year. They are way too beautiful for that not to happen.
    Lucky, lucky you to have that glorious gardenia ~ I wish I could smell them ~ the most intoxicating scent!
    ps it's 50 degrees here today & cloudy. I'm already thinking of spring so perfect post!

  4. I've discovered that my irises like to be divided every two to three years. I dug, divided, and moved them a few weeks ago and hope for an abundance of blooms in the Spring. I love the way they look in mixed plantings but find it hard to keep the rhizomes from being buried or shadowed when mixed with other plants. Yours are beautiful!

    1. Thank you for your kind words. I divide mine too but they just had too much competition in some places. In more open plantings bermudagrass will be more of a problem but I should get more flowers. I hope so anyway!

  5. You have an amazing variety of plants, and so much color in your garden. I'm always impressed.
    Hope the horses are in good shape for fall riding.

    1. Thanks Janie! The horses have been in light work all summer. The pony has to do a minimum of 10-15 minutes of trotting and cantering (at a good clip) 4 times a week or more to keep a decent weight even with a grazing muzzle. I'm building her up slowly, as she's had some problems over the last year and a half. I'm happy with how the big horse is going too.

  6. Is that a white baptisia? Your iris are beautiful and I so much enjoyed the timeline. You talk about the garden so intimately but there is a lot of effort behind your plantings. It shows!! Beautiful.

    1. Yes, there are white baptisias in the pictures. I've had one in the garden ever since we moved here 16 years ago.

  7. thats a lovely show! I love the colors and the pict with your ouse in the background. just amazing



  8. I wonder about this year's screwy weather and its affect on the iris blooms. I have a fringe tree that didn't bloom this year. Some of my hollies didn't bloom this year. Just strange. Have a vole take my pretty pretty toadlily...rotten critters.

  9. I have so much shade now that I've had to dig up my iris and give them away. I hope next year will be better for you!

  10. I had the same problem with my irises-they got crowded out. Last spring I dug them out and planted them in a new spot, where hopefully they will enjoy a bit more of a spotlight. Now, it is just a waiting game for them to recover from the move. Fingers crossed, I will have some new iris blooms in the spring.
    I have always admired your iris, especially the white and purple ones. I am sure they will prosper again next year. I wish we could have gardenias in our gardens here. Love that fragrance!!
    P.S. Took a quick look at the posts mentioned. The combination of irises and foxgloves in one of the images was spectacular. I can also see why you like the black irises.

  11. Do the iris need to be divided? Maybe that would encourage more flowers. :o) They're still beautiful! I had gardenias in my garden in SC. They grow here but are unreliable in winter. :(

    1. I wish they only need to be divided, but they've just been overwhelmed. I need to return to reality and give them what they need. lol

  12. Your garden has such comfortable, very inviting and cozy look. Irises give it a special touch. It looks as they rule here!

  13. First, let me say your gardenias are beautiful--I can only imagine the heavenly scent you must have enjoyed while working in the garden. As for your iris, I was disappointed in the blooms of mine this year, too, and wondered if they were overcrowded. I've only had them a year or two, but the bed they are in is fast becoming crowded with other perennials. I hate to think of moving them, but it looks like something has to go.

    I've long admired all your gorgeous iris, Sweetbay, especially mixed in with the other perennials. This project looks like a lot of work, but definitely worth it in the end!

  14. Once again, i am enchanted! I especially love the photos with your house in the background. It seems to be a fairy tale setting, though I know a lot of work is needed to make that fairy tale come true!

  15. Hi sweetbay,

    My name is Tina Jin, the community manager for a new blogger community called Garden Gab (www.atomicreach.com/tribe/gardengab). This is a feed powered by Atomic Reach that features bloggers writing about gardening worldwide. This community will focus on tips, advice and personal stories on the subject. I want this Garden Gab community to be a place where expert advice and tips are consolidated in one place for beginner (like myself) and experienced gardeners.

    If you decide to join, Garden Gab will publish the title of your blog posts and the first few sentences of each post. If readers want to read the full story, they’ll be pushed to your blog and give you traffic. These readers will be people who share the same passion and interests as you, which is the sole purpose of the community.

    If you’re interested in joining our community, please e-mail me back at tinajin @ atomicreach.com with “Gardening” in the subject line. If you have any questions, I would be more than happy to answer them.

    Community Manager

  16. Thank you for reminding me what a fully blooming gardenia in the ground looks like. I've been growing them indoors in Connecticut since I left Georgia 11 years ago. The picture of yours, in such an evocative setting, was a breath of sweet memories.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...