Beardless Iris Study Day

On Saturday  I had the pleasure of attending The Beardless Iris Society study day in the depths of Herefordshire.  I haven’t been to a plant study day for a few years now as I think I was just overwhelmed with plant information but the break has reinvigorated me and the programme appealed to my inner plant geek,

It was only fairly recently that I discovered that there was a Beardless Iris Society, a sub group of the British Iris Society.  In broad sweeping terms, which would probably be frown upon by stalwarts of the society, beardless irises are generally the Siberian irises and Japanese (Ensata) irises along with a few others which don’t have beards. Whilst some in attendance fained a dislike of Bearded Irises I think most, like me, just loved iris in whatever form they took.

The study day started with 3 talks.  A quick round up of Siberian Irises from Alun and Gill Whitehead, our hosts; a talk about European Beardless Iris by Tim Loe; and a talk about the Iridaceae family by Dr Julian Sutton of Desirable Plants.  Julian’s talks are always so informative and engaging and I learnt loads from all the talks; although there seemed to be a difference of opinion about the importance of the number of chromosomes in the hybridising of Iris sibrica  with Iris sanguinea and the significance of I. typhifolia. Most of it passed me by but I do find the discussion about these things fascinating even if I only understand a bit of it.

After a lovely lunch provided by our hosts we went for a visit to their garden, Aulden Farm, which hosts a national collection of Siberian Irises. As ever in the depths of Herefordshire the journey to the garden involved single track roads, encounters with tractors and lots of reversing – all good fun especially when you are in a convoy of 5 cars.

I haven’t been to Aulden Farm for years although I regularly chat with Gill at various plant events.  I seem to remember some years back when there was a drought and everything looked a little dry.  Not so this year, all very lush and bountiful.  Aulden Farm is the type of garden that really appeals to me.  It is a very natural garden without being a wilderness.  The grass fades into the full borders which overflow with all manner of interesting plants.  This isn’t a garden which relies on design and structure nor for that matter is it a garden which relies on unusual plants; it is a garden which seems to capture both extremes in a space which envelopes you in plants and wildlife with paths that encourage you to explore further.

The Whiteheads are plantsmen (or should I say plants people).  They are consummate growers and sell all manner of plants at various groups and events.  They also have an informal nursery at their garden for open gardens days under the NGS and other visitors.  Needless to say being a group of plant fanatics the nursery was the first stop for many.  As ever in these circumstances I take advantage of the distraction to get into the garden and take some photos before it fills with people.

One of the key feature of the main garden is a dry river bed which meanders across the site being more full of water one end than the other – I didn’t really get a handle on the logistics of it.  But the moisture creates the perfect environment for Siberian Irises -as you can see from the photos on this blog post.  They look so good in large clumps and they were so full of flowers unlike mine which have been very mean with their flowers this year.

For some reason I hadn’t really registered that there was a national collection to see in the garden, although I have been told this before but my brain is full of work stuff and was obviously have a sabbatical on Saturday.  Anyway, I was rather surprised to come across a gate leading to a large field like area of garden full of raised beds full of irises. As with any good national collection the beds have a clear planting plan displayed for visitors so you can mostly work out the name of the variety you are admiring. I liked most of them, my tastes are so catholic, but I was interested in the varieties with larger petals (or perianths as I think we were told to call them by Dr Sutton – must check my notes).  I am used to the more simple, natural siberian irises but the hybrids have three larger chunkier perianths which really appealed to me; but then I do love Ensata iris and these have a similar type of flower head.

Having admired the garden I found the nursery empty of visitors so time for me to browse the remains left and do a little plant buying.  On returning home and sorting out my acquisitions from the garden and plant sale in the morning I seem to have acquired 5 new irises which is rather troubling as I have no idea where I am going to shoehorn them into.

I had a lovely day, learnt lots, met interesting people, had good food, visited a lovely garden and bought plants – what more can you ask for.

Six on Saturday – 1st June 2019

I can never decide if I like Papaver ‘Patty’s Plum’ or not.  The colour of the flower when it first opens is lovely and I can’t resist the tissue like petals but it does fade to a rather miserable brown as it dies.  Having said this my two plants of ‘Patty’s Plum’ are groaning with buds and I am anticipating the best ever show in the next week. There are two because being an oriental poppy when you attempt to move it you can more or less guarantee it will reshoot in the original position from some small element of root you have left behind. Interestingly, the red oriental poppy (name unknown) is always behind with its flowers and there are few obvious buds so far

Some of my alliums are behaving a little strangely this year by growing very tall with smaller flower heads than usual.  It seems to be mainly the alliums with flatter flower heads than the globe flower heads such as ‘Purple Sensation’ although they too seem to have smaller flower heads.  I can’t find the name of the variety above, its like Allium nigrum but has the pink inner petals so I am pretty sure it isn’t Allium nigrum.

I think this Thalictrum might be the  ‘Black Stockings’ admired elsewhere.  I am pretty sure these were grown from seeds some years back.  It is a nice Thalictrum as it isn’t too tall like some Thalictrums.

The Siberian Irises are also not flowering as much as in previous years and I suspect that they and the alliums have been affected by the drought last year.   I do love irises and this has been brought home to me over the last few weeks with all the irises I have included in my Six on Saturday posts.  With this in mind I’m off today to a Beardless Iris study day which hopefully will be interesting.

I thought I would show you some of my more extreme pruning.  The above is a Viburnum which had been neglected and grown tall and leggy with whippy stems – a victim of my lack of gardening over the last couple of years.  A couple of weeks ago I noticed the flowers had gone over so I got my secateurs out and drastically pruned the shrub.  It looked awful at the time but I was pleased to see that new leaves have started to appear so hopefully it will be reinvigorated soon.

I also meant to write a blog post last week about my tin bath pond but work got in the way so I am sharing a photo here.  I have had the tin bath for a number of years.  It was acquired with the intention of creating a pond; it sat on the patio for a year or two but for reasons I can’t remember now didn’t seem to work well so we (well my son) drilled some holes and I used it as a planter for a few more years. Then about 3 years ago I wanted to grow a miniature water-lily, as you do, so we (my son) filled the holes back in and we created another pond.  The lily has grown well over the last couple of years but a water lily on its own is not that interesting so last weekend I stopped at a garden centre which sells pond plants and bought a few bits and pieces to add interest.  I’m hoping it will be more colourful as the summer progresses.

For more Six on Saturday posts check out The Propagator’s blog

Stand and Stare

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

William Henry Davies

I know it is an over quoted poem but I do love it and think the sentiment is very true.  Interestingly with the hot dry weather we have been having I have found myself unable to dig my new border and actually spending a lot of time standing and staring at the garden – often with a hose or watering can in my hand!  I have had time to really look at what is in flower instead of, as is usual at this time of year, barely registering and certainly not examining blooms.  Today I noticed that the Irises were well ahead of last year with some of them already going over in the heat.  Irises are up there amongst my favourite flowers and seem to do really well in my garden so I am planning on acquiring another one or two at next weeks Malvern Spring Show.  So I will leave you with some Iris pictures – at the top is an Iris sibirica – I have no idea which as had it so long.

I have had this Iris since I was about 12 and it has moved house with me so many times.  When I was 12 we moved to a house that had been quite neglected and had a large 3/4 acre garden which was overgrown.  My parents cleared the central areas but much of the side areas were left while they did the house and where like a secret garden to me.  I think this is where my interest in plants started.  I spent a lot of time clearing brambles to reveal old fashioned roses and irises which I carefully transplanted to the cultivated part of the garden.  I would love to know what this iris is – I have left a trail of them in my wake since that house!!

This is a new Iris to the garden.  I bought it from Clare Austin’s stand at last year’s Spring Show.  It is a dwarf Iris and called Sweet Kate.  I hope it bulks up like some of my other irises as it is wonderful along the front of the border.

Another favourite  Iris which has just come out in the front garden is Langport Wren.  There is something about the colour of this Iris that is just so rich and sumptuous and to be honest I have found myself  drawn to these sort of rich colours more and more.

I am really looking forward to seeing what Irises are on display at Malvern and hopefully coming away with one or two new treats!

Iris-tastic

As well as the Aquilegas that I showed in the last post, the cottagey theme is continued in my garden with the outbreak of an extreme case of Irisiitis.

I am very lucky that I seem to be able to grow Irises in this garden particularly as they are one of my favourites flowers.  The clay soil in my garden probably helps as it provides extra fertility.  The clay soil has an annoying  habit of baking in the summer sun but this is ideal for bearded irises as to get the best flowers the rhizomes really need to have a good baking.  I am always careful not to plant my Bearded Irises where they will be overshadowed by anything to make sure the rhizomes get a good baking in the summer sun.

Unsurprisingly, I succumbed to the two Irises above at the Malvern show earlier this month.  They are dwarf Bearded Irises which I haven’t grown before and I thought it would be nice to have some short ones that would look right at the front of the border which is the ideal location.  The one of the left is Sweet Kate and the one on the right is Lady in Red.

My favourite Bearded Iris is Langport Wren.  I divided my plant last year and was thrilled that the one I moved to the front garden is flowering well this year and looks better than I expected against the bright yellow of the Oregano.

This blue Iris was the first one I ever got and it, or part of it, has moved house with me at least twice.  The current plant has 17 stems of flowers on it which look stunning.  I suppose I need to divide it at some point but it does seem a pity to have to break up such a nice clump although I understand that dividing it will help to rejuvenate it.

As well as Bearded Irises I have some Siberian Irises which I also love – no surprises there.  They are so elegant and just seem to look after themselves.

Next weekend I am  thinking of popping up Shrewsbury way to visit Claire Austin’s nursery and see the Iris fields.  The only thing is that I wonder whether the Irises will be going over due  to the heat we have had this week and there is also the concern that I may end up coming home with another Iris!