Wednesday, July 15, 2015

An iris lullaby - I mean goodbye!

My friend Kathryn (a great gardener) was dropping me off at my house after yoga class last Thursday. I asked her to wait a minute.  I wanted to show her the sunny space I had planned to turn into a flower garden (the only sun I have at my house; it's not ideal - brutal afternoon sun, in front of the house, in an awkward area).

I was talking about what I planned to put there and pointed to the spot where I had some white flag iris generously shared with me by a member of the American Hydrangea Society (she'd read that I'd lost my white flags some years ago and brought me some).  Kathryn asked where they were.  I looked, and not a blade of foliage in sight!  They had disappeared.  Then, I ran around the corner of the house to look at some taller bearded iris I planned to move - half gone, shredded.  

When did deer start eating bearded iris?  These flowers have been here for three, four, five years or more and have never been touched.

So, panic flew through me.  The iris up on the abandoned lot next door!  There were dozens of them  - all my favorite tall deep, dark purple.  A year ago when they were in bloom, I cut some and took them to church.  I dragged my shovel up there in late May with the intention of digging a few.  I wouldn't take them all, but just several fans to give me a start.  Besides, they needed dividing (my excuse for taking some; there's no one to ask permission, since the owner lives in Russia and apparently has no intention of keeping up the six-acre property).

But, I decided to wait until the iris went dormant in July, the best time to dig - only I never got around to it.

Last week, when I saw what had happened to the iris down here, I pulled on my long boots and the equivalent of a hazmat suit (it was 94 degrees with bright sun) and slogged through the tall weeds up the hill.  

Previous owners - there have been three in my 42 years here - had added many wonderful flowers and shrubs, including this long, curving row of dark, velvety iris.  

My heart pounded when I approached the area where they had been.  Nothing.  Not a blade to be found.  I rummaged around in the Vinca major, up through which the iris had been valiantly growing, but they were gone.  Did the deer eat them last year?  I somehow think it happened more recently.

No, I shouldn't be going up on that property, although I've pretty much kept the English ivy off the big, beautiful trees up there.  And, I confess that I've cut a few branches of pittosporum to take to the church. 

It makes me sad that I did not save those iris.  At least, I would have kept something going that has likely been there for years.  

After I had come down from the hill, I looked out the window to see a doe eating the liriope at the side of the house, right next to where the white flags had been.  I don't care about the liriope.  In fact, they've mowed it down so that it now resembles mondo grass, which I like better.  But then the deer walked over to the side of my house and chomped off a leaf of Boston ivy.  I ran out screaming.  A few weeks ago I noticed they'd eaten a big swath next to the music room windows.  I had splashed some deer repellent on the wall and finally had some new growth.  Now here she was again.

I ran inside and grabbed the container of Liquid Fence, a horrible-smelling thick ooze that you mix with water.  I shook the bottle violently, and all this stuff came flying out onto the tile floor of the hall and onto my leg.  The smell!  The waste of an expensive product!

To put an end to this tale, I rushed out and mixed up a batch of the foul liquid and splashed it on every place I could think of.  I wish I could anticipate what they're going to get into next.  Meanwhile, I am still trying to remove the revolting odor from my front hall.  And, I am still heartbroken over the iris I did not save.   

But, these are the vagaries of loving plants and gardening.  A vole can pull down a beloved hosta as fast as a deer can chew one up.  I'm going to go back up on the hill and try again to find some vestige of these beautiful iris.  Meanwhile, I discovered two fans of the white flags, clipped close to the ground.  Rest assured, they are covered in Liquid Fence.  If the weather cools down, I'm going to start clearing my new cutting garden in the front.  It's going to look funny, especially surrounded by rods rigged with fishing line.  I plan to have some pretty white iris blooming by April of next year, and if I'm lucky, some dark purple ones, as well.  We shall see how it goes.

Note:  The gorgeous iris above are likely Louisiana iris.  The photo was taken on the Atlanta Botanical Garden's tour on Mother's Day of this year.  The iris on the hill are bearded German iris.  They were pretty much the same velvety, dark color.

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