Monday, January 4, 2016

"Talking Irises" TALL BEARDED IRISES -- Merging Ourselves in the Garden Makes for a Meaningful Life

By Susanne Holland Spicker

'SEA POWER' Keppel 1999
 "Why do plants have such a positive impact on us? There are a number of reasons, including: They have a predictable cycle of life that provides comfort in our time of rapid change. They are responsive but nonthreatening. They form no opinions or judgments about their caregivers. They soften our man-made environment. They enable us to change or improve our environment. They provide relaxation and tranquility." ~ Gardening-Therapy for Mind, Body and Soul

'MAGICAL' Ghio 2007
When I started actively gardening about 20 years ago, I just wanted to grow some beautiful flowers. I had no idea the impact gardening would have on me and my life. I found that working in the soil and seeing the miracle of rebirth that takes place when the plants woke in the spring was indescribable.

'MONTMARTRE' Keppel 2008

I've learned much during those 20 years. Reading and
studying, taking classes, visiting nurseries and home
gardens. I've also gleaned information from other
gardeners through sites like this one. I think I've learned
most, however, by trial and error in my own flower beds.
This post will concentrate on some of the things I've
learned that have helped to make gardening much more
enjoyable, satisfying and successful for me. Hopefully
there may be an idea or two that can be of some help 
to you as well.


So, where to begin?  May I suggest that garden 
journaling is the perfect place to start?
'PARISIAN DAWN' Keppel 2006
Keep a garden journal. A journal can be as simple as a spiral notebook. I start a new journal every year, and have a separate one just for irises. It contains planting dates, bloom times, plant performance, any insect or growing problems, the action taken to solve problems, and the outcome. Weather-related problems, with freeze or early warm up dates, and the moisture levels for that year are included. Plant information such as the hybridizer, introduction year, plant height, sun, water, and fertilization requirements etc., are kept in an iris journal in a folder on my computer, tagged with its picture. It's been interesting and helpful to compare the data from year to year. 

'EXTRAVAGANT' Hamblen 1983

As I look back on my journals over the years, one of the most pleasurable things is to read my thoughts at that time:  The anticipation of the year's first bloom in the spring, the excitement at the bloom of a new cultivar, the quiet beauty of an early morning walk through the beds after a spring rain, the amazing colors at peak iris bloom time in the gardens, the childlike wonder seeing a bud unfold, or even the  debate I have with myself trying to make room for "just one more" iris! Yes, journaling has been an important and special part of my gardening.

'VIENNA WALTZ' Keppel 2000
Make a garden map. There is no substitution for a good garden map to keep track of your plants. They've been invaluable for success in my gardens. An easy way to make a map is to simply walk around your garden with a sheet of small grid graph paper. Write down the names of plants as you see them in the bed. Then you can take that information and transfer it to the computer. Making changes when plants are added, removed, or transplanted is very easy to do with this system. Hard copies can be printed off and taken out to the garden for quick reference. I like being able to see the garden on paper at-a-glance. I use this method of journaling to design a bed or figure out color schemes and placement of plants as well. I'd be lost without my garden maps.

Use a plant marker system. Since irises look much the same when not in bloom, plant markers are an excellent way to keep track of them. I've had good results by writing names on durable plastic plant markers with a black grease pencil or a black oil-based paint pen. Other markers, even though they claim to be permanent, still fade. I've seen all kinds of markers--blind slats, tongue depressors (although these don't hold up well), plastic cutlery, metal engraved ones--it doesn't matter what you use as long as it is durable and reliable.
Take lots of pictures! There are many reasons why photos are valuable in your journal-keeping: Pictures give the date and time the picture was taken. Tagging photos with pertinent information, such as cultivar name, hybridizer, height, bloom time, etc., makes it quick and easy to find any bloom you've photographed. Irises in an individual folder on my computer, listed by name in alphabetical order has been a system that has worked best for me over the years.

'CROWNED HEADS' Keppel 1997

Australian researcher Mike Steven said that domestic gardening has the potential to satisfy 9 basic fundamental human needs in our everyday lives:  "subsistence, protection, affection, understanding, participation, leisure, creation, identity, and freedom." 

'ADOREE' Blyth 2010

I think Andi Rivarola sums it up: "Merging ourselves in the garden makes for a meaningful interior life."  I know this has certainly been true for me.

If you haven't kept a garden journal, or implemented the tools mentioned, I encourage you to start now--2016 is the perfect time to begin! 

'PHOTOGENIC' Ghio 2006
Do you keep a garden journal?  If so, has it made your gardening experience more meaningful? I'd love to hear from you.


  1. I really enjoyed the comments up above as this is what i have endured thru my love of irises, found out thru a good friend and hope can pass it down to my friends now for generations to come.

    1. Yes, I think that is exactly what is so special about the love of irises. I was inspired by my parents and grandmother; I hope to pass that love down to my children and grandchildren as well. Thank you for your comments.

  2. Susanne,
    Your blogs just get better and better. Your photography is stunning and adding the fancy lettering to the photograph is artistically pleasing. Thank you for sharing your many talents with us.

  3. What lovely photos! I do keep a garden journal and I also have maps. I print out little labels in 8 point and tape them to the graph paper. Happy to see I am following some of the same steps as such a great gardener as you are Susanne.

    1. I love that idea, Marte! I appreciate your kind words!

  4. I have not done a map of my own garden, but did do one for the buyers of my parents' large woodland garden place. One of the necessary things was where all the drip lines went and where they are buried. Also all the shut-off valves and connections at the well.
    I do keep a journal and have do so for years. I doubt that I'd be able to keep track of things like feeding, soil amendments, planting dates, insects and weather conditions without it.

    1. What a great idea--I love your idea of keeping track of the drip lines--and, of course the shut-off valve! That's true about not being able to keep track of things like feeding, amendments, etc.,--when I first started, I thought I'd surely be sure to remember that, but when the new season arrived, I couldn't, so that's when I started. Thanks so much for your comments--I appreciate them!

  5. Great "blog" Susanne. Really enjoyed it. Pictures are fantastic. Keep up the great work.

  6. Fabulous blog! Oh I love iris photos & share them for every friend on facebook to wake up to in the morning. We all deserve it for God gifted us colors for free. Audrey Hepburn said it nicely. Families are forever & blessed be our tiny assistants first photos taken with garden tools in hand.
    For 40 yrs+ I have kept calendars & added my gardens into them until they are almost all garden now. The maps were a new system added when the chickens & dogs decided tags were mere toys to be strewn about the yard! Now the digital photos on the "cloud"--they are the absolute best when the iris bloom if you use interesting shaped heavy stones or garden art for your bearing points but when they don't bloom or in the midst of transplanting dozens of rhizomes I am trying a system of color coded jewelry wires loosely wrapped around the rhizomes themselves. Will let you know how that works out. . .

    1. Lorraine--What a fabulous idea! I'm anxious to hear back from you to find out how the color coded jewelry wires works out! I appreciate your comments--I love the one about God gifting us colors for free. Thank you for sharing!

  7. Currently, the best faux ivy privacy fence is the ColourTree Artificial Hedge. ... or other plants to grow in order to obtain privacy in your garden.Best artificial turf

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