Sunday, May 26, 2013

Iris - Bearded, Siberian and Japanese

My Iris are blooming profusely in the garden right now. Their tall, slender stems emerging from wide, fan-like leaves and topped off with gorgeous pops of color. They remind me of popcorn that has suddenly burst open from it's kernel. They variety I have (below) is referred to as a Bearded Iris. Bearded Irises are the most popular type, but the Siberian and Japanese types are gaining in popularity and can be equally as stunning. 

Bearded Iris in my Port Washington, NY garden
So where is the beard? If you look closely on the lower petals which hang downward (these are called "falls," while the upright petals are called "standards") you'll see little fuzzy parts in the center. These are the beards. Bearded Irises are easy to grow, require full sun and will multiply over time. They come in a variety of colors including pink, blue, red, yellow and purple.

The Siberian and Japanese Iris do not have the fuzzy beard and hence, are considered beardless. Most of the beardless irises are native to Asia.

Siberian Irises form beautiful clumps of grass-like foliage (much thinner than the fan-like foliage of the Bearded Iris) with blooms rising on slender stems. The flowers are smaller and more delicate than the bearded type, in shades of blue, purple, red-violet or yellow. Once the flower fades, the foliage remains a beautiful focal point in the garden, often resembling an ornamental grass.

Photo of Siberian Iris
from Delaware Valley Iris Society

Japanese Iris have huge, flat flowers with ruffled petals. Here, the falls are large and the standards are short. Their leaves are sword shaped with a distinct rib that runs lengthwise down the leaves - a good way to distinguish this type from the others when not in flower. Absolutely gorgeous in a mass planting.

Photo from UMASS Amherst Extension

In Greek Mythology, Iris is the Goddess of the Rainbow and because of the elegance of the bloom, it has been the symbol of royal families throughout history. The most famous use of the Iris as a symbol came from France, when it was adapted on royal banners as the "fleur-de-lis"(possibly adapted from Iris Pseudacorus)


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What's Blooming This Month? May 2013

Today is Garden Bloggers Bloom Day! Here's a look at what's growing and blooming in my Long Island garden this month.

 The pretty flowers of the Viburnum shrubs are starting to show.

 More Rhododendrons continue to pop open every day.

 A pretty, shady spot for the Columbine, Hostas and Ferns.

 The red Azalea in the front yard is a show-stopper this year.

And purple Iris are just starting to open up - so lovely!

As always, any thanks to Carol over at May Dreams Gardens for hosting the monthly Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

Saturday, May 11, 2013

New Shade Garden

I have always admired shade gardens. Varying shades of green, different textures and even a few delicate blossoms to enhance the woodland effect of such a garden always intrigued me. After we did the renovations last year, I suddenly had mostly sunny areas to plant. I wondered if I'd be able to find a spot to grow my lush woodland garden. But then, I noticed a rather boring spot along the side of my front yard that was covered with English Ivy. It is shaded by a Kwanzan cherry tree on one side and a Forsythia hedge on the other. I knew it was the perfect spot for my long awaited shade garden.

The first task was to remove the ivy. Judging by the spread and depth of the vine, I'm guessing it was here for a long time. Their roots are not very deep, so its relatively easy to pull out, but it was still a big job, given the amount of it.

The ivy was removed and the area was raked clean. The soil beneath had not seen the sun in many years and was quite compacted. I laid a nice layer of compost on top and then enlisted my husband to turn over the soil in order to loosen it and mix in the compost.

Ah... a nice clean, prepared bed. just waiting for plants now.

Back in February, when I started day dreaming about this shade garden, I ordered a bunch of plants from a mail-order catalog called Bluestone Perennials. They arrived nice and neat in a box just waiting to go into the garden. I was so excited when my shipment arrived. My kids thought I was a weirdo. 

I had drawn up a plan on homemade graph paper, plotting out complimentary and contrasting textures, colors and mature size of the plants. So after giving the shipped plants a good watering and some dappled sunlight, I placed the plants into the garden and modified the layout a bit. I have hostas, heucheras, ferns, columbine, bleeding hearts, tricyrtis (toad lily), solomon seal and anenome to name a few. The great thing about the plants from Bluestone is that they arrive in biodegradable plantable pots made from coconut husk fibers (coir). Because of this, you can plant the pot directly into the ground causing little to no transplant shock and the fibers naturally break down in the soil on their own.

After planting them in the ground, I edged the bed with some rocks I found on the property that match the edgings of the other garden beds.

After two weeks, the little plants are still growing. I can see a few new leaf sprouts and flower buds on a few of the plants which is encouraging. Parts of the garden get some morning sun and a little evening sun. Some parts are very shady. I can't wait to see how each plant grows as I continue to learn... after all, that's what gardening is all about, right?

Shade garden under a blanket of cherry petals. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Sweet Little Buttercup... or is it?

Across many lawns and under trees these days I see a cute little yellow flower. Sometimes there is a whole blanket of them covering a large patch of grass. It looks so pretty - a sea of yellow on a spring day!

It's hard not to be seduced by this cute little flower putting on such a spring show, but it can be very invasive! It's called Fig Buttercup or Lesser Celendine (Ranunculus ficaria).

Fig Buttercup has a basal rosette of dark green, shiny, heart shaped leaves and the flowers are a bright yellow with eight petals, borne singly on thin stalks that rise above the leaves.

Fig Buttercup may be confused with Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris) which bear a similar resemblance. However, Marsh Marigold has glossy, rounded leaves with 5-9 petaled flowers on stalks that are 8in or more in height. It does not produce tubers or bulblets like Fig Buttercup and therefore, does not form a continuous carpet of growth.

Locally, it turns to brown mush in June before going totally dormant for the season. So while it may be tempting to add this to your garden, it could easily take over. If you really must have it, it's best to keep it where it can be naturalized and allowed to spread freely.