A plague of Iris

I’ve been cleaning out the upper part of what Linniew is pleased to call my ‘creek’. The winter silt chokes all the pools and needs to be dug out. This involves a great deal of mud, but to spare my readers’ sensibilities, I have not photographed it on this occasion.There’s no fancy stonework here.  I created the pools and falls from some ancient railway sleepers dug at an angle into the ground. The soil is very heavy clay, which never dries. It seems to suit my primula ‘Inverewe’, and the big water-loving irises, so that is what I mostly grow here.The problem with these big irises is that they go on the rampage if you give them a sniff of water and mud. The central clump here is Iris Laevigata which has pretty, floppy dark blue flowers in late June. It used to be a single plant, but has built itself an island. If I failed to hack it out, there would be no pool left. The same goes for the common yellow flag (Iris Pseudacorus) and, above all, Iris Versicolor, a tough American iris with beautiful purple/blue shading on its young leaves. All of them have to be  savagely attacked with a spade, and chucked in the trailer in gooey clumps. Any wild, damp, underpopulated bit of the garden gets a dollop of mud and an iris or two stamped in. Then I leave them to their own devices.

Elsewhere, it’s time to stake the herbaceous plants. Stake is probably the wrong word, as what I do is weave a rough dome of beech branches over the delphiniums, aconitum and the oriental poppies (papaver orientale). The Edinburgh Botanics use birch, and weave it properly: my version is  rough and ready by comparison.There’s a turbulent back-draft off the wall, and if heavy wind and rain combine, flower stems get bashed. The beech provides excellent support, especially to the top-heavy poppies. I support even the smaller plants, such as the Johnson’s Blue geranium, which can look very ugly if it is blown flat. The only difficulty is having to guess the height the plants will grow to, so that the supporting framework is concealed.

After all this work with green leaves and black mud, it’s nice to have something in flower. The spring clematis, c.macropetala, forms a blue tangle at this time of yearDon’t tell Alistair, but I actually prefer these early species clematis – this and the various c.alpina cultivars to the large-flowered summer varieties. There’s delicate, and there’s blatant…..


21 thoughts on “A plague of Iris

  1. I quite like a bit of blatant and a bit of delicate too, Mr K. Need they be mutually exclusive, when you can have both? I’m very taken with your beech domes and shall steal the idea forthwith. Dave

    • I’m sure your beech domes will be much prettier than mine. If you take trouble, you can actually make quite an attractive structure. Hope you’ll post some pictures!

  2. I agree on the clematis – small flowered ones all the way!

    I like the way your Irises made themselves an island, that’s very enterprising of them. Maybe Boris Johnson should plant a few in the Thames and in a few years he can have his airport.

  3. Nice to find someone else chopping their iris to pieces ! I just say thank goodness they are so good at thriving in damp soil. Super clematis, these early ones and the later viticella are my favourites.

    • Glad we agree on both clematis and iris, Pauline. I would love to find a big iris that was civilised in its habits…..all mine are set on world domination.

  4. I’ve been saving poplar branches to stake my perennials (poplar grows like a weed in my garden), but clearly I have to let them dry out before using them, since they’d otherwise be likely to root. And I want a herbaceous border, not a row of poplars!

    I am deeply jealous of your cascading stream; ours is completely flat so it is somewhat less picturesque.

  5. Hi Kininvie
    Creek is looking well. I’m glad you are clearing out the mud as needed. I wondered what would be the fate of the evicted irises but you explained that. “Savagely attacked with a spade” sounds a little extreme but maybe it’s kind of primeval and therapeutic and keeps one in shape for caber tossing. I very much admire the plant support system. I use bamboo and little straight limbs but they aren’t so graceful looking as the beech limbs.
    ps: Your attitude toward large-flowering clematis doesn’t have anything to do with the vibrant growth of my cuttings does it?

    • Dear Linnie – most of my gardening consists of attacking things savagely with a spade. Is there another method? I didn’t wish to mention the fact while our little wager remained unresolved, but in general the alpina, macropetala, and viticella species are held to root more easily than the large flowered ones (not that I have had much success with either, so I defer to your expertise)

  6. Staking, something I always mean to do but never remember in time. Maybe it’s because I don’t have a ready supply of twigs and branches. I used some bamboo canes and twine last year which wasn’t to bad but I much prefer the more natural look. Maybe I need to take some secateurs out and find a few trees I can acquire some stake material from.

  7. I really like your ‘creek’! I guess it’s going to be buried under the exuberant iris foliage in a while though, isn’t it?
    I inherit a couple of clumps of iris pseudacorus here in my new garden and at first I left them because they’re pretty when in flower. A clump happens to occupy a rather important focal point though, so I think I’m getting rid of it (if I can lift it!), also because I noticed it’s started self seeding around and I find it quite invasive. You have plenty of room and water to get the best out of those irises though.

    Looking at that little ‘isle’ of mud I kind of realized how hard and frustrating it should be gardening for you with all that mud and water sprouting from everywhere! I’m not envious!

    • Alberto – there’s a nice white variety, iris pseudacorus ‘alba’, which is a lot less rampant, and which you might consider? A pickaxe is useful for lifting clumps. As for the mud – each to their own. I’m not sure I could manage your summer heat and drought.

  8. Great looking waterfall — and I was impressed with your efforts to control the iris plague. It seems the more we garden, the more work we make for ourselves. And I’ll keep your secret from Alistair. 🙂

  9. Your waterfall is beautiful — and I was impressed with your efforts to control the iris plague. It seems the more we garden, the more work we make for ourselves. I’ll keep your secret from Alistair. 🙂

  10. We have several of the clematis alpina in flower at the moment. (don’t tell Alistair). I even have a couple of the later flowering ones climbing through some bushes. The early ones are a bit rampant but who could not love the nodding flowers?
    We had a boggy bit of ground in our last garden which was full of flag irises. What a wonderful sight!

  11. ha,ha, Hope you dont get bogged down when lifting those Irises Mr K. Thanks for the link—I think. I have been thinking a lot of what you said about those Spring beauties, truth is I like them all. In fact only this morning I was having a look for positions for alpina, struggling at the moment but I will come up with an answer.

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