After the first year of pretty good tulip & lily blooms, in spite of rodents, cold temperatures, and zone illiteracy taking some bulbs, I knew I’d have to reach beyond lilies and tulips. I discovered the world of iris....
Incredible beauty to behold and if you look closely you can see a Georgia O'Keeffe painting in every flower.
Oh how I wanted to paint those beautiful frilly iris with their anthers standing tall amidst the shimmery stigmatic lips. Before I could paint, I was going to have to get them ordered and planted...back to the catalogs and lists! Oh what exquisitely captivating picturesI poured over in Schreiners Gardens catalog. Towards the back of the catalog they had ‘collections’ where I’d save half the cost by purchasing a set collection. OK! If I save half the cost I can buy twice as much!! They were speaking my language!! Having learned my lesson the year before, I stuck to just one catalog so I wouldn’t be surprised at how many bulbs arrived for me to plant during the onset of cold weather.
I actually read up on iris culture, learning they liked a sunny location with good drainage. I chose my sunny south slope where I’d have to remove a bit of lawn and hoped the rocks had already been cleared out. No such luck! Either the sod was placed right over the rocks, or the earth was spewing rocks up from it’s center. I later came to believe the latter, as new rocks emerge from just under the soil's surface each year all over my garden.
Have you ever removed sod? In the sun? On a hot dry day? It’s the stuff nightmares are made of! We rented a machine that cut through the sod, ran the machine in rows, then rolled up each row of cut sod, digging up the roots as we rolled.
There they sat, waiting for one of us to regain our energy and carry the rolls of sod over the hillside. Where we left them to compost for years and years and years.
Let’s see, iris need a foot of space and I have about a hundred ordered, so my next task was to start digging out rocks. And digging.... Amending, this time with chicken manure and bone meal along with the sand because I’d been told both would help the iris generate larger blooms and stronger stalks. You know the rest by now....dig, pull out rocks, dig more, pull out more rocks and finally amend the soil. Eventually I had a lovely bed into which I could plant my soon-to-arrive new beauties for the garden.
Over the years my collection of iris grew and I ordered from many catalogs. I met a delightful pair of iris breeders, Paul Black and Thomas Johnson of Mid-America Garden. Paul and Thomas are award winning breeders and to this day I love visiting their garden to spend time with them. Not only have they filled my iris beds, but they taught me how to BREED my own iris!!! I could have my own iris CHILDREN!! Each pairing produced 20 to 40 seeds & I planted them all until one day I finally ran out of room. In the sun, anyway, I still had a forest of shady area. As my collection grew and grew ... and grew, I had to dig out more and more lawn. After about 15 years, I ended up with just over 500 named iris varieties plus all the seedlings I had bred. One day, not too long ago, I was too tired to play in the iris beds anymore. Every year I had faithfully dug up, divided, and replanted. I couldn't throw away my extras, so I took them to a farmers market and sold them. It was now time to start seriously withdrawing. As my iris bloom today, they must make me fall on my knees with delight at the color, the shape, the exquisite beauty and form. If they don’t, then I ruthlessly dig out and dump into the compost pile unless any neighbors come by, willing to pick up the departed!!
Thanks for stopping by. Until next time.....