Bearded Iris- you can grow that

I just love bearded iris.

Thanks to C.L. Fornari’s meme  last month, by pure luck I had a ton of new visitors to my dusty little corner of the blogoverse. If you’ve come back, thank you, and welcome. I say it was by pure luck because the links are listed on J.L.’s site in alphabetical order by plant name, and my plant was chives. Now for this month…aconite, anyone? Asparagus? AAronroot? I just made up that last one, there’s no such thing as aaronroot. As far as I know.
I decided to go back to the true spirit of the meme, which is that newbie gardeners sometimes get scared off by complicated instructions, or recommendations from one side to be all organic, and the other side to use blue chemicals on a regular basis. What people need is a slam dunk- something so easy you have to give away extras. In my garden, bearded irises are a slam dunk. And toward the end of June, I will probably be giving away extras, if anyone local is interested.
I use Iris a lot as a kind of placeholder- when my Korean lilac was 6 inches tall, surrounding it with iris made it look like a real garden bed, instead of a twig surrounded by mulch. Now that the lilac is about 4 feet tall, and covered with flowers, the iris anchor it, and are ready to be divided and given away.
Making friends with a gardener who is dividing iris is maybe the best way to get them, unless he’s a stalker, which you won’t know until he keeps showing up at your door with bags of rhizomes…
Once you get your bag with plants, sort them out. The best roots are big and fat. There should be at least one fan of leaves per chunk. I trim the leaves to about 6 or 8 inches from the rhizome, and plant it with the dangly roots in the soil, but the knobby rhizome just on the surface. If it goes underground, it rots. In fact, iris is nice and drought tolerant, not really caring whether it gets much water. Cutting the leaves back allow it to establish itself without drying out, but there are still green leaves to feed it while it makes itself at home.
My wonderful MIL is the source of this information, and the source of all my iris as well. She has told me to transplant before July 4th. I don’t know if that is specific to zone 5, or the front range of Colorado, your mileage may vary in other parts of the world.
What if you can’t bring yourself to make friends with a gardener? They sell bearded iris- McClure and Zimmerman has some in their Spring catalog for $11.95 if you buy 3. That seems expensive…but as I’ve said, I’ve never bought Iris. They also claim that a coral-pink variety named “Beverly Sills” is among the most popular. Hmmmm…I don’t know.
Buying them would be the way to get unusual colors- most of mine are light purple, with a couple of plants that are dark purple, and one that is bronze-flowered, which blooms a week or so after the others.
Trust me, you can grow that.


Craptastic garden design

“Have you walked up the road to see the house on the corner yet?” my sister in law asked. We were at a family reunion in small town Idaho.

“Why,do they have, like, garden gnomes or something?”

“Well, no, I didn’t see any gnomes, but you have to go up and see it…”

“But why?”

“You just have to go see it.”

Well, we took a walk at sunset.

The shed was actually white, but glowed in the setting sun.

Wow. It was a high desert garden filled with junk- no gnomes, just farm implements turned into birds, bedframes hung with mugs and vases, a bottle tree. multiple bowling balls, a shelf of trophies. Craptastic!  Both of my brothers- in-law looked at it with dread, worried that they were going to wind up with a yard full of crap too.  DH didn’t say anything, but obligingly took a photo of the bottle tree in the setting sun.

One of the best structures was a fence around what I think is a goldfish pond- I stayed in the alley, so I couldn’t get close enough to be sure. The fence was alternating panels of sheet metal and either glass or plexi, and I bet it was designed as winter patio- not quite a greenhouse, but you would get a greenhouse effect- you could go out in the sunshine in the winter and be protected from the North wind, but still get sunshine, and since the structure was only around 6 feet tall, you wouldn’t have to get a building permit.

The family reunion was 4th of July weekend, and since then I have been evaluating the things I add to my garden- how much crap does one need? A little crap may look insecure, whereas a ton of crap inspires people from out of town to stand in your alley and peer over the fence.  I am thinking I might want a bottle tree, though…

Sculpture park

There is a park close to my house that is a perfect walk- a loop around is about 2 miles.  it’s a lovely little spot. I’ve especially been admiring the design lately. Admittedly, sometimes it seems like they just keep cramming in sculptures, but they are mostly quite nice. My favorite is the origami horses above. There are also 2 bridges, each great in its own way- one is a rough wooden walkway by a mini-waterfall, and the other is a gentle arch over the swamp- I mean, wetland.

The land it was on was originally wetland, and it is part of the chain of irrigate-y waterways that snake through town. It links a ditch with a lake, linked to another ditch. Someone has designed this, though, to keep it natural-looking.

It's funny how the mowed edge of the grass sets off the wildness of the wetland- although they probably mow it mostly for tick control

I lived for a while in Sidney, Nebraska, and there was an old creek bed there that had caused flooding problems, so the Army Corps of Engineers came in and moved it, straightened it, and terraced it. They built a park around it, and built a recreation trail…and it was horrible. I mean, I’m sure it was horrible to have your house flooded every 5 or 10 years, but as a park and rec trail…it was obviously engineered rather than designed. The corps didn’t care if it was exposed and windy and hot. There may have not been enough budget, or anyone to speak up.
Over the years, the people who have been involved in the Loveland Sculpture park did speak up. I’m lucky enough to live nearby.

I want to live in a conservatory

I ordinarily don't like red, but this warmed my soul.

We went to the Denver Botanic Gardens last week- the kids had the day off school, so I got a sub so we could have an adventure.
DH had a conference in Denver, so we loaded up the car and went down. We were prepared for the worst,  “bring coats, wear a fleece!” I said as we left the house, but we were graced with amazing weather.

I’ve been to the gardens a couple of times, and this time I bought a membership, so I can go again. I’ll drag other people, too, so beware! Or, wait patiently for an invitation…
You would think that February is an unlikely time to tour a Botanic Garden, but I planned it knowing that the conservatory has at least an hour’s worth of hanging-around time. Everytime I go there, I wish my house was a greenhouse. Not a sunroom, or a lean-to.   I want to live in a conservatory.

Marni's Pavilion has a rotating orchid display.

 Lots of things were in bloom, it was warm and humid. Perfect for a February day, with uncertain weather predictions.We saw banana trees, and pineapples and bamboo, and a waterfall. And orchids! Love orchids.

I’ll sort through the outdoor pictures and post about them another time- it turns out we couldn’t have picked a better day- sunny with no wind. Today I want to share the flowers in the conservatory. Aah. Orchids.

There were four or five of these sprays of dangling orchids, moving in the breeze from the fans. Amazing.