Ex-Bearded Iris Garden

Irises

The year I moved into this house I got irises from various friends. I thought I loved Iris, especially Bearded Iris, with their spectacular colours and falls and beards.

Because they’re so hardy, and drought tolerant, and need virtually nothing in the way of care, I planted them–more like “placed” them, since they don’t really get buried–under the three cedar trees in the front garden.

Bearded Iris, "no name'. This is May 2010

Bearded Iris, “no name’. This is May 2010

Purple Bearded Iris, May 2010

Purple Bearded Iris, May 2010

june-2011-iris

Unfortunately, I don’t like the look of this area of the garden once the irises are finished flowering for the season. Of course I don’t have a picture of the area in its ugly phase, so there’s no evidence. And there never will be:

Many many MANY irises

Many, many, MANY irises

I’ve changed my garden so many times in the last 9 years, I can testify to the value of keeping those plants that you really love and/or give multi-season interest, and getting rid of whatever doesn’t make the grade. [Stay tuned for a post on “The Goodness Ratio”.] Irises just weren’t making the grade.

I’ve dug what I hope will have been ALL of them, to be replaced by something that will be beautifully back-lit by the morning sun. This is on the east side of the property, and there’s nothing in the way of that early light. (The fence in the second picture above is no longer there.)

Here are some of the options:

Solomon's Seal --Polygonatum odoratum

Solomon’s Seal –Polygonatum odoratum

Solomon’s Seal, looking lovely backlit with morning sun. It’s only in bloom for a few weeks, but the foliage is attractive most of the growing season. Definitely a possibility. Will it tolerate the drought? Will, I have to irrigate?

This might be my favourite spring bulb--Fritilaria mealagris

This might be my favourite spring bulb–Fritilaria mealagris

Fritilary, cute as a bug’s ear, but only for a month or less, and then the foliage dies away quickly. It’s also a flower that is best seen close up, as in this picture. That isn’t really the situation in my ex-iris bed.

Euphorbia amygldaloides

Euphorbia amygdaloides

Euphorbia amygdaloides, Wood Spurge. Yes, there’re lots of advantages to this, not least is that if you deadhead frequently, you’ll get a lot of flowering through the growing season. Pretty unusual for perennials. But I already have LOTS of Euphorbia, the above being a large patch right in front of the ex-iris bed. So, “No” to more Euphorbia.

Imperata cylindrica 'Red Baron'

Imperata cylindrica ‘Red Baron’

Ahhh, Japanese Blood Grass. Hard to beat for showing off the early and late day sunlight. But again, I already have lots. Because I love all these plants that glow in early and late light.

Stipa-tenuissima_13sept05

Stipa tenuissima

OK, getting closer. Stipa tenuissima–Mexican Feather Grass. I have a few clumps of MFG, so I think my decision may be another ornamental grass, possibly Miscanthus sinensis or Panicum virgatum.

Panicum virgatum 'Prairie Fire

Panicum virgatum ‘Prairie Fire

Miscanthus sinensis 'Adagio'--or is it 'Yaku Jima'?

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Adagio’–or is it ‘Yaku Jima’?

In the meantime, this is where this post started. Anyone interested in free irises? I recommend only local-to-Vancouver fans.

irises

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How to Capture Morning and Evening Light

How to use morning and evening light to your best advantage

It’s late October, but still a great time to be planting here in coastal BC. And one of the things I’ve loved about my own garden is how I serendipitously planted some shrubs and perennials where they’ll GLOW in morning or evening light. And of course, since it was serendipity–read “total accident”–I missed the opportunity to do the same with others. No problem, my “research” garden is always in the process of change-I love to dig things up and move them around. They seldom mind.

Here’s some examples:

Imperata cylindrica, Japanese Blood Grass:

This is what it should look like in your garden

Red-baron-Imperata-cylindrica-SADNICA_slika_XL_3062736

You can see that the light is shining through from the back right (shadow front left).

My JBG on the other hand looks like this:

Not taking advantage of this glorious sunny day, just kind of ...dull

Not taking advantage of this glorious sunny day, just kind of …dull

So it’s going to be dug up, divided, and moved to here:

DSCN1052In among all this lily-of-the-valley, I’ll put clumps of JBG. What a fabulous combination when morning sun shines through.

Japanese Maple:

Morning sun front-lighting this Japanese Maple

Morning sun front-lighting this Japanese Maple

This Japanese Maple–almost overpowered by the Pieris japonica–is beautiful from the street side. But from the house side (not my house)…

DSCN1062

I know you’re confused–“Where’s the Pieris?” This is actually a different tree, same property.

…it’s practically on fire! And because it’s out toward the street giving enough open space on all sides, the evening lighting will be even better.

Euphorbia characias is an amazing structural plant:

Thanks to HortusUrbanus for her Seattle picture

Thanks to HortusUrbanus for her Seattle picture.

But if you situate it where there is open space between the viewer and the morning or evening sun, you get this:

DSCN1007How about this Fritillaria meleagris

Fritillaria meleagris

Fritillaria meleagris

DSCN1006Or even

Even your teeny tiny botanical tulips.

Even your teeny tiny botanical tulips.

Then there are things you can’t control

DSCN2125

…but keep your eyes open, and appreciate them when they appear.

How to

The key is just identifying plants that will show extra-special when backlit–either flowers or foliage, like the lily-of-the-valley above–and then plant them so they are positioned between you and the early morning or late afternoon sun. (These are mostly early morning pictures, but late afternoon sun gives even more fiery effect since the angle of the sun produces that golden glow.) Make sure they’re planted with open space, or lower growing plants, on the “sun-side”, so your targets plants are not in the shadow of the others.

Then go out and enjoy the view. Take pictures. Send them here. I’d love to see what others have done to Capture the Light.