Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A time to plant - iris, that is


The one place I didn't get to on this Paris trip was the Bagatelle in the Bois de Boulogne.  One afternoon after I had dragged my friend to see the terribly overcrowded Parc Monceau, we toyed with making the trek to the Bagatelle and decided it was too late in the day.

So, when we had dinner with Carol and Luc Tessier (more about this fabulous "cocktails in the garden", "dinner in the conservatory" later), they were telling us how magnificent the roses in the Bagatelle (a garden within the Bois) had been this year.  "And the iris," Luc added, "were just unbelievable."

I was disappointed that we had missed the display, but I sort of had this feeling of satisfaction.  Only a couple weeks before, I had received a gift - an entire box of bearded iris, all cut into fans and cleaned and ready to put in the ground.  My benefactors were two gardeners I met recently - Carl and Vosco.  They live a little ways out from my hometown and have a wonderful garden and chickens and eggs and a superb composting operation.  Even though it's been terribly dry where they are, I'm betting you can take a trowel and plunge it way down into their soil, which is loose and black and rich compared to the surrounding red clay.  As a result, their flowers are prolific and healthy.  This year I caught the tail end of the perennial season in June, but they still had lots of day lilies and lilium and coneflowers (even roses that weren't 'Knockout').  I can't wait to become a regular visitor and keep up with their seasonal flowers.

Anyway, I was concerned that I had to leave the iris here while I was gone.  Then, when I returned, it was too hot to work out in the yard.  But, I do have a plan.  The soil in the gardens at the farm is good and friable and dark.  I plan to put most of the iris out there, and then move them up here when I have the ground improved in the section where I now have full sun.

Carol Tessier took the above photograph in the Bagatelle this past spring.  When I finally see the colors I get from Vosco and Carl, I may want to do a mixed bed like this.  Or, I might parcel the flowers out according to color to mix in with roses and peonies.  My friend Karen says the guys may even have some more for me, and then I could do my dream allee like the one at Giverny (well, it wouldn't be as long; see the blog archives, Wednesday, July 6, 2011).

I must point out those electric blue iris in the left center towards the back.  That's a color I love, in addition to white and also dark purple and yellow, and on and on.  My friend Kathryn gave me some iris one year, and we got so tickled we couldn't talk when they bloomed.  Truly, there aren't many ugly irises, but these were hideous - a sick, two-toned gray purple.  I haven't had the heart to get rid of the things.  Some pretty white flags I used to have disappeared, but these ugly ones never fail to come back year after year.  I might have to mix them in when I get the good colors from Karl and Bosco, or maybe I should surprise Kathryn, so she'll have some, too.  We shall see.

Note:  I took heart in the following excerpt from Iris City Gardens, a nursery in Tennessee.  It appears I still have time to get my iris in the ground.  Here goes:

"Bearded iris

July and August are the best months to plant the bearded iris although they can be planted almost any time of the year except winter.  They prefer sunny, well-drained locations and should be kept moist until the first new center leaf appears.  Take care not to overwater.  Plant the rhizomes just below the surface of the soil so that after the first rain the top is exposed.  Do not mulch or overwater."