Category Archives: Iris

End of Month View: May

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Yes – it’s finished! Even the corner pieces are now on the new pergola. And that marvellous shadow effect is not only due to the sun – the Bon Viveur painted the wood in two different shades of blue to accentuate the effect. 

May has been a very mixed month. Much wetter than is usual here and temperatures quite cool. Up to 27 degrees centigrade in the garden occasionally, but often not much more than 15 or 17. A mixed blessing. There has been fantastic growth on the plants and I am particularly pleased that my new herbaceous plants in the Hornbeam Gardens have had time to establish properly, without additional water.

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Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’ flowering on the steps up to the Mirror Garden

The down side is that we are (as of Saturday 28th May) heading into another rainy period and all of the juicy rosebuds may be a bit of a wash-out. And just when they finally started getting their toes in … No one can be a real gardener without dabbling in philosophy.

The shot below is of the Rose Walk, Long Border, Knot Garden and blue pergola from the balcony of the house.DSC_0002

I’m still in two minds about the Knot Garden. Half of me says topiary hollies and bedded- out tulips (flamboyant!), followed by some cool bedding colours (white and green nicotiana?). The other half sees low white roses against green hedges.

The Bon Viveur is for both. At the moment I just keep weeding and allowing the young box (cuttings from 2013) to grow …DSC_0007 (1)

Moving down to the Mirror Garden. Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’ is just finishing off its annual performance. What a star – the first rose to flower here every year since it was planted in 2012. I’ve noticed that it begins on a particularly warm little spot on the old tower and spreads like wildfire. I had to hang it back up and chop it a little in May, while it was already flowering. (Takes a steely heart to cut buds from a rose like this!)

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The Melianthus major have gone out in their blue pots again this year. DSC_0008The pleated foliage is beautiful, but they are not really working in the pots, and I still haven’t found an alternative. I loved the  Melianthus that used to be in the huge pot at Hidcote (still is?), and that’s where the idea comes from. These pots are too small.

DSC_0013 (1)I was wondering about some yellow bedding (the theme up here is yellow, grey and green). But I’m currently drawing a blank.

The blue pergola on the Vine Terrace is finished, as I’ve said. This is the prettiest thing I’ve ever had in a garden of mine. But thank goodness the BV has gone back to work in Basel – he has been laying waste to the ivy that covered most of our ‘service’ bits – hence the ladder that you can see in the background.

DSC_0014 (1)DSC_0019 (1)Like the wire down to the plug where I attach my electric lawnmower in the Iris Garden – and even the pipe for the fosse septique. I’m mortified! This is where we bring our visitors on a nice summer’s evening.

Still – the irises look grand. I’m enjoying the first flowering of plants I purchased back in 2014. ‘Forest Hills’ you’ve already seen here, in my post about the irises in Basel.

The other little stars are …

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Langport Storm

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Jane Phillips

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Foggy Dew

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Carnaby – the flashiest iris I’ve ever grown. Love it!

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Blue Rhythm

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Wine and Roses – sweetly pretty. I’m already imagining it in combination with other plants in the garden when it is big enough to divide.

The Iris Garden is where my worst fears about the current bad weather reside. ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ is just getting into her stride.

DSC_0025 (1)My worst fears because this is simply the worst rose I’ve ever come across for ‘balling’. I’m sure I’ve written it before, but here goes again: ‘When she was good, she was very, very good. But when she was bad she was HORRID!’ If it rains when she’s flowering, that’s it. The buds become ugly grey-brown lumps of lead – and they are heavy, heavy, like little bullets when you cut them off.

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You can just see a browned-off bud in the background. She’s looking like a bit of a Joan of Arc here, gazing up to the skies … and suffering.

Today I did a mercy run and cut some for the table in the kitchen. We do usually get flowers again in late summer – so I’ll pray for better weather then. She was superb last year.

I’m not so worried about ‘Blairii No. 2’, also just coming into flower. It seems much more tolerant of wet weather.DSC_0105

This is the first year I’ve planted clematis out against the walls – so far I’ve been a bit nervous to add them, because I still am doing so much planting and they don’t like being ‘messed with’.  But now ‘Mrs Cholmondeley’ is snuggled up between ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ and ‘Pierre  de Ronsard’. She’s a ‘wilter’ and all I can do is pray for her …

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DSC_0140Down in the Rose Walk things are exactly as I want them (and just the way most other people don’t!). I like to feel I’m in a wild flower meadow and my roses are just growing there accidentally. The picture below is at my shoulder height – buds all the way.

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The tantalising buds of ‘Fantin Latour’. I noticed the first open flowers Saturday evening before rather a scary thunderstorm.

The buds of a pink peony are mixing it with up ‘Fantin Latour’.

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‘Gertrude Jekyll’ has been the first rose to flower this year.

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The alliums are in full flood (oops – not the correct word to use, given current weather conditions).DSC_0032 (1)DSC_0124

Allium christophii is flowering for the first time here.

DSC_0037DSC_0121The nigella are (as usual) out of control … but so pretty I can never murder them.

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Geraniums, disappointingly, don’t do too well in the Rose Walk (I don’t think I give them enough room, really, since they like to spread over the surface of a border). Fortunately the new ones are romping away in the lower part of the garden.

But this little seed-raised G. himalayense has been so pretty this year. DSC_0047

And Anchusa ‘Loddon Royalist’, just along from the geranium, is keeping up the blue/purple theme. I probably shouldn’t have planted this – it will just worry me to death because everyone says it’s short-lived. But I was pretty successful with it on heavy clay in England, so I’m daring to try again.

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And the bronze fennel is acting as a nice backdrop. Although starting to remind me what a fierce weed it is.

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I have to admit, sometimes even I think the Rose Walk is a bit messy … but so romantic and what’s more important? The path is narrow (this is actually dictated by the dimensions of the place, not me) and I feel we should be replacing it with a herringbone brick or something to give more structure.

DSC_0120aWe are due (this sounds better than ‘hoping’) to put a greenhouse down here. It will have to be blue-grey, and specifically for my sixtieth birthday in December. Attached will be a matching pergola created by the BV.

Funnily enough, this whole Rose Walk area (although it was the first place I gardened when I started in 2012) is the most ‘unfinished’ of the cultivated areas in the garden. There’s the awful heap of garden rubbish where the glasshouse will be. And at the far end there’s a matching heap of rubbish (perfect symmetry) where I want my compost bins. Three of them, shaped like beehives, painted cream or pale blue …

I can dream about my greenhouse and the beehive compost bins. That’s what my blog is all about …

Against the Rose Walk wall (the village ramparts), ‘Madame Alfred Carrière’ is pretty startling in this, her third spring.

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… and just beyond the short length of hornbeam hedge, by our garden gate, once flowering rose ‘Alchymist’ has finally got more than two buds at a time!

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Behind the Rose Walk is an area I call the ‘mini woodland’. All looks reasonably respectable at the front, with aquilegias and herbaceous plants coming up in the area where I could see coloured stemmed dogwoods two months ago and then the bluebells.

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DSC_0111 (1)A week ago I decided to go round to the (even wilder) back where all the creeping buttercups hang out, smoking and generally behaving badly.

I wanted to weed and found myself bathed in wonderful spring sunshine, in the wild heart of one of my best ‘messes’ – the buzzing of bees was overwhelming and I couldn’t bear to touch a hair on its head. Well, maybe the odd one or two …

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I don’t often say say or write the kind of comment that follows; I’m a perfectionist who not only lacks confidence, but is very critical of herself . However, the Long Border looks lovely at the moment (although poor roses – blasted by the rain since Saturday night).

DSC_0057 (1)DSC_0058 (1)There is a lot of material grown in bulk from cuttings here (filched from the streets of the little town where I used to live). Philadelphus, weigela, and so on clothe the bank down from the Rose Walk. Everything is flowering properly for the first time and I can hardly believe they were about 5 inches high when I brought them here in November 2011.

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Weigela, comfrey and borage with Hesperis matronalis.

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Philadelphus coronarius

And many repeated herbaceous plants grown from seed: different catmint species (N. sessiliflora & N. nervosa), Asphodeline lutea and Thalictrum speciosissimum.

I’m even noticing that my Angelica is self-seeding (in many of the ‘wrong’ places).

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Naughty angelica settled in the crown of Thalictrum speciosissimum

Very interesting. Being ‘economically challenged’ and using, of necessity, the same plant many times can help give a border unity. I’m proud of it. I planted out some tubers of Dahlia ‘Bishop’s Children’ last Thursday and I’ve a few (too small) cannas to add. The dahlias seem to take the heat really well  (this is almost the hottest part of the garden) and I thought I’d turn this into a real blaze from hell in the summer. Slowly, slowly.

Down in the Hornbeam Gardens, my little dead magnolia, planted over the cat’s grave, has been replaced by a Cornus kousa ‘Satomi’ (fingers crossed that doesn’t die as well!).

DSC_0087 (1) I’m really pleased with the geraniums and grasses that are starting to perform after being planted last year just in advance of the hottest summer I’ve known here.

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The young shrub above (planted winter 2014) is Viburnum plicatum ‘Watanabe’ (a smaller version of ‘Mariesii’) and the blue geraniums are ‘Orion’ and good old ‘Johnson’s Blue’. The grasses are seed-raised Deschampsia cespitosa.

On the other side of the path, the plantings of herbaceous in March this year are filling out nicely, although my Echinacea ‘Summer Skies’ never made an appearance. Must make sure I get the nursery to replace it – we don’t often do that, do we? But many mail order nurseries offer some sort of guarantee.

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Lilac ‘Miss Kim’ is very small, but pretty near perfect.DSC_0081 (1)

And the BV has erected the most fabulous support for my sweet peas that they have ever, ever had. At least they will benefit from the rain. Could be a good year!

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Through the hornbeam hedge into the orchard is my next challenge – a slope that’s being crammed full of shrubs and ‘extras’ from the rest of the garden. So hard to maintain by strimming as it was. It’s still pretty rough around the ears, but I find it interesting to record ‘before and after’.

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It’s all looking good – even the grass is cut. But if it carries on raining this week, I’ll be forced to turn to the ironing (also growing well in May) and cleaning the beams in the attic.

Weather, be kind to my roses!

This ridiculously long post is my contribution to Helen’s ‘End of Month View’ at the Patient Gardener. Go on over and see the exciting things that exploded into flower in everyone’s else’s May garden.

 

 

In a vase on Monday

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In the kitchen

I’m always a little intimidated by this meme. I love seeing other people’s vases, but the vase photography and the arrangement seems a little beyond me. Today I got a bee in my bonnet that I wanted to take part again.

For me it’s about appreciating what’s in our garden at the moment (since I seem weak on the arranging and vase photography front!) Hours later, my vase had been round the houses and I still wasn’t happy …

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On the balcony table – if I got rid of the railings, we’d fall off … not a good outcome.

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Back against the stone wall on the balcony … they look a bit more as if they are in their natural habitat here, although by now rather ‘beaten up’ by moving home so many times.

The vase is composed of my favourite iris (see my footnote below), bronze fennel and one of the Bon Viveur’s favourites, red valerian. I think I was attracted by the way in which the fennel and valerian brought out the warmer red in the iris colour.

DSC_0099There’s also a touch of Nepeta mussinii ‘Six Hills Giant’ in bud.

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My footnote: this iris – called I. pallida by me – is possibly not that species at all. Here are my findings.

Below is the ‘vase’ iris …

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Down in the garden my variegated Iris pallida has started flowering. Here it is, for comparison …

DSC_0136DSC_0140Not the same, I think? The shape of the flower (the vase iris seems a little more ‘towering’, with longer standards), the colour of the beard, and the tone of the lilac. So I’m still searching for a name. Any ideas?

Thanks to Cathy for hosting this lovely, sharing meme.

(And a note to those powered by  ‘Blogger’, such as Amy Myers at a Small Sunny Garden and Kris Peterson at Late to the Garden Party – I’m having trouble posting comments on your blogs. Can you advise?)

Buzz over to Cathy’s blog, Rambling in the Garden, and see what glorious vases everyone else is composing this Monday.

The irises of Merian Gärten, Basel

Botanic Garden.19 May 2011 023I 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.

Botanic Garden.19 May 2011 009This 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.

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Botanic Garden.19 May 2011 011There 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.

Botanic Garden.19 May 2011 002Botanic Garden.19 May 2011 005Botanic Garden.19 May 2011 022Good memories of happy, hot afternoons in Basel with very special people.

Botanic Garden.19 May 2011 033When 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.

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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.

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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).

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Wild irises are already flowering on the walls behind the Rose Walk …

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… just below the level of the Mirror Garden.

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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).

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And, since Sunday, Dutch iris ‘Gypsy Beauty’ has struck up a bit of a dance in the Rose Walk.

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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.

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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 …

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