Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Wednesday Workdays

A New Iris Bed

This week's project was one of those calendar-dependent ones.

Mother always said to move iris in July and we have been having a little cool off, so decided to strike while I could and get them moved. Originally, the only iris I had were several clumps of a big, beautiful pink bearded iris that Mother gave me 5 - 7 years ago for Christmas. Over the years the clumps have gotten larger and I have divided them and stuck them various places in the garden as accents, but last fall I decided that I wanted to add more, so I ordered six [any doubt in your mind what the next word will be?] purple plants. When they came, I just stuck them wherever there was a hole and forgot about them. Most of them bloomed this spring and were lovely, but at the same time they were blooming I realized that I had a big hole in the back border and that they would look better - and provide a better show - if they were all together. So this project was born.

Over the spring and summer I've weeded out, cleaned out and mulched, so the site was already in good shape - and there is already one plant living there near the center. I watered yesterday, so when I started digging I found excellent soil that was easy to work. Using a spading fork I dug up most of the clumps to move them into the new bed. Everything around this area will be bare when the iris bloom, and will then fill in to cover the scapes as they dry out. I put the tall pink plants toward the back, since they are so large and then mixed the rest in wherever I could.

I also carried plants to two neighbors - dug the holes and watered them in - and in one case traded plants. My next door neighbor has been offering me lavendar and white iris for years. Her's are all pale shades, while mine are dark, so I took her five plants and brought back five of hers. Have no idea exactly what colors I got, so it will be fun to see them in the spring.

Given the good shape the ground was in, my bed took only an hour to lay out and plant. Her's needed extensive weeding and all of the plants were buried too deep, so I ended up digging up half her bed and replanting it in order to not plant the new ones at a higher level than the old ones. Her bed took about two hours to do half. Next nice morning I get, I will go finish it.

The final bed looks pretty bare right now, but will flourish in the spring. If you are new to iris, here are the rules:

1) plant them at ground level. They like their "backs" (the rhizome) out of the soil, but their roots go deeper.

2) no mulch! They don't like to stand in water or be wet for long periods of time. At the top left and bottom right corners of the photo you can see where I pulled the mulch off this site. I will redistribute it elsewhere tomorrow.

3) cut the fans to 5-7 inches tall. When you move them you need to cut off the long scapes that will make them top heavy, so they will stay settled in the soil until the roots have a chance to re-grown and provide - well, roots. There is also a school of thought that says to set them so the fans are all turned in the same direction. I have done that in my neighbor's bed, but had trouble with the shapes of some of my clumps, so fudged a bit on the ones along the sides. I assume this has to do with wind protection, and to give all the rhizomes space to grow in the future.

They look a bit silly now, but come back in April and let's see how they do!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Thanks for the Good Examples

It's been a wonderful weekend and not really over yet. Cooler weather - sit on the deck weather and we all know that's my reason for living! - nothing scheduled to do. Have done a ton of work in the garden - unfortunately it was mostly deadheading. This heat has not only caused things to bloom early, but has also caused shorter blooming cycles in so many of the summer perennials that I am well into fall deadheading already - and not liking it a bit! But it will mean that things are cleaned up earlier this year, or maybe that I will get finished this fall and not in the spring - wow! that's a great thought.

But what I really want to do is thank some of you for Friday night's dinner. Jeanne at Collage of Life had a lovely post on Thursday or Friday about summer table settings. She inspired me to actually "set" my table for a small dinner party that evening. Close friends came for an impromptu dinner [on the deck] so I spent a [very] little time and made it special. [Ok, here's the deal. I didn't think to take a photo before they came, and was embarrassed once they arrived, so no real photo. You will have to use a bit of imagination. I fail as a blogger!]

I pulled out a turquoise cloth and folded it so it would fit the wrought iron table and then made individual vases of flowers [from the garden] for each place. Not much interesting in bloom, but a posey here, a posey there and I liked the effect. Then a big candle for the table and voila', I had a table. *

Then Marie at 66 Square Feet stepped in and posted her recipe for Green Garlic Risotto and I was set. Add the family recipe for ribs, a fruit salad and we had a meal. I made my grandmother's recipe for "Berry Roll" using fresh blackberries from the CSA and we dined like kings.

The best part of all, tho, was the next morning Mitchell [seriously] said. "I really liked the table last night. It was like a party. We should do it more often." "We" in the previous sentence should be translated as "you". He even suggested looking for a tablecloth that fits correctly. That's one shopping trip I shall take soon.

So big thanks to Jeanne and Marie for the inspiration [and recipe]. You can teach an old dog some new tricks!

* Cheap, imitation dinner the next night. Reused the flowers with regular place mats. A little festive, tho, with beets and tomatoes [from our garden].