Saturday, January 9, 2016

Step One: Decide What Step One Should Be

By Vanessa Spady

Back in September, Chris and I decided to start a growing project that I lovingly call ‘a comedy of iris.’ We had the general idea of having a larger-than-personal growing and touring garden on a piece of property near our homes (originally bought for my mother). In order to address the issues we have in our area of poor soil, temperature and moisture extremes, and a hearty population of burrowing critters, we also decided to experiment with different kinds of beds and watering systems. We did not have a hard-and-fast idea of what this project would look like, which is to say, we had a lot of enthusiasm, but not a concrete plan… The comedy will probably just write itself.

September is late in the season for ordering and planting iris, but not too late, particularly in our climate. The temperatures in September were still hot, even as the days became shorter. So, online we went, iris shopping with a purpose! And, as the shipping season for iris ended in mere days, choosing the iris for our first year of growing was the top priority. An urgent, must-do task of immediate importance. I figured that should be Step One.

When you have as much enthusiasm for iris as we do, it’s remarkably easy to find yourself spending, say, two or three hours shopping for iris online. It’s also easy to click “add to cart” a shocking number of times in that duration. And having a reason to buy more than you already have, well, that is a bit of a dream come true. But choosing carefully, and for purposes beyond “Ooooooh, pretty!” meant slowing down, methodically selecting for attributes and qualities outside of personal preferences. I also needed to ensure I didn’t purchase iris Chris already had and vice-versa, which put the brakes on the runaway shopping spree aspect of populating our first beds. So it slowed down our Step One a touch, which was probably beneficial.

The “before” shot. This is the area where our glamorous garden now exists.

But the beds weren’t ready for an imminent shipment of rhizomes, so certainly preparation of soil needed to become a top priority, and get done ASAP.  This meant we needed to find someone to bring in high-quality soil, as our native soil is, um, well “poor” is the nice way to say it (more on our native soil later). So finding someone to truck in really good planting soil had to be put first on the list of accomplishments.

Of course, before the beds went in, we had to decide on the layout and which kind of watering system we’d be using so those would be ready before the soil arrived, making that the thing we had to start with pronto, maybe even sooner. Definitely, we needed that done as the initial step.

Right after purchasing all the parts for the drip and soakers, which we couldn’t really do until we’d finalized the layout, which would depend on how many iris we bought, and also be somewhat determined by which iris we bought since some of the layout of the beds would undoubtedly be dictated by the types and colors of iris in our purchase... So, we really had to get that done first.

Step One, for sure, should be the uh, the um... what did we just decide? [Re-traces steps, notices circular logic.]

Well, clearly shopping for iris won the contest! Once the order was placed, we moved on to the next step of laying out the beds, designing the watering system, and having some gorgeous, healthy dirt brought in. Clearly, there was a logical, obvious order to this. [Cue the audience to laugh now.]

Wonderful loam, delivered right to the edge of the garden. 
To my surprise, we have used it all!

More soon on adventures in layout design, what kinds of beds to employ, and what kinds of obstacles greeted us as we moved forward. Let me just say this: kiddie pools.

And because I promised photos of iris in every posting, here is 'Pink Kitten':
'Pink Kitten' V. Wood 1977
Blue shade of pink, lined deeper on F.; tangerine beard tipped lighter. 
69-2 (New Frontier x Signature) X Dove Wings.  
Classification - Intermediate Bearded 
Bloom Period - Early and Reblooming 
Bloom Height - 20"


  1. Oh, Vanessa, thank you for starting my Saturday with a smile after reading your post! Can't wait to read the further adventures of the optimistic irisarians!

  2. You’re sure welcome! I love the chance to brighten your day. :)


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