I am waiting for the irises to bloom here. The buds are large and tempting.
While waiting (and looking at irises on the blogs of other gardeners), I was reminded of a perfect iris collection that used to be only a bus and tram ride away from where I lived in Alsace. The pictures are not great, but I thought I’d share the garden all the same.
The iris collection at the Merian Gärten, Basel, is a ‘must-see’ if you are in Basel during May. I’ve tagged this as a ‘French’ garden to visit, which of course it is not, because Basel is in Switzerland. I hope you’ll forgive, because the French border is so close – and the life so cross-pollinating between the two peoples – it hardly makes a difference. If you do visit Basel in May, you’ll find more than one beautiful park created around the homes of some of the richest people to live in the city during the 19th & 20th centuries.
This garden used to be the estate of a wealthy agriculturist, Christoph Merian, and is open from dawn until dusk every day.
If you are there for the irises you should make sure you catch the wonderful peonies too.
There is also an 19th century orangery and an excellent cafe (opening at 9am) at the back of what I believe must have been the original Merian home, which you saw in my first picture. The Swiss, Germans and Austrians really know how to handle a coffee break.
I’m afraid I don’t know the names of any of the cultivars in my pictures. I was too busy drooling and falling in love.
Good memories of happy, hot afternoons in Basel with very special people.
When we first bought our house here at Châtillon, the Merian Gärten had worked a bit of magic and I fancied creating long ribbons of iris colour down in the area we call the Orchard. I still haven’t done it – that’s the last area of garden to come under cultivation, and I’m due to tackle it this autumn and winter. In the picture below, it is just above the area where the grass circle has been cut around the young walnut.
The straight lines of colour would run out, away from the terraced garden and house (I thought). I’ve changed my mind now, on account of the sulky nature of the iris for 90 per cent of the year. There will be herbaceous plantings instead (probably featuring a lot of grasses, to cope with heat). But the irises will, for sure, find a home. I think everyone reading will understand when I say: ‘I want MORE!’
Meanwhile, our own Iris Garden is lovely and tidy – last Friday it was waiting for the first blooms to open.
We named this terrace for the wild iris that the previous owner had planted along the base of the main south-facing wall. These have been replaced with fancier cultivars and I’ve added irises to the right of the box hedge you can see below (it needs weeding at the moment, but I’m frightened to break any buds).
Wild irises are already flowering on the walls behind the Rose Walk …
… just below the level of the Mirror Garden.
In the Rose Walk itself the iris I call Iris pallida (rightly or wrongly) is flowering. A few rhizomes were stolen from the village street where it grows wild and gives a lot of joy in May (see my last Wordless Wednesday post, and don’t tell anyone here that I’m nothing but a common thief).
And, since Sunday, Dutch iris ‘Gypsy Beauty’ has struck up a bit of a dance in the Rose Walk.
As of Tuesday, we had the first Iris Garden blooms from ‘Forrest Hills’. All my named cultivars arrived here in 2014 as two discount collections and have already been moved once (in August 2015). The collections were from Peter Beales and Jacques Briant. I didn’t really rate the rhizomes from the French nursery much – they were tiny and have taken forever to establish, whereas Peter Beales’ collection are romping away and all have buds this year.
‘Forrest Hills’ is the one that has produced the biggest, happiest clump in those two years.
This terrace is also where I’m planting crocuses in the grass (you can tell I ‘grew up’ in a botanic garden – there’s a sad botanical logic to my madness). Of course, the foliage of the crocuses is a bit of a nuisance when you start mowing in late April/early May, but worth it for the pleasure of them in February.
There’s lots to come – I’ll leave you with a promising bud of one of my favourites, ‘Foggy Dew’. Still waiting …