Happy Memorial Day!

Here in the US it’s Memorial Day, a day of parades and ceremonies to remember the sacrifices of the fallen.  Today we’ll be hitting the main events but we’ll also be grilling and getting ready for summer since the weather is finally agreeing with the calendar.  Yesterday I finally got to spend a lot of time in my own garden and most of it was spent getting the front yard straightened out.  It was a pleasure since the whole yard is perfumed right now with the lemony and grape scents of flowering bearded iris.

historic iris

This old iris is one of my favorites.  Although nameless, it has a strong fragrance and carefree habit. Butterfly bush will shade the entire patch come July, but these iris keep going regardless.

The front border along the street is dry full sun, and the iris enjoy the summertime baking.  I think the dry, lean life helps ward off all the floppiness and fungal diseases that sometimes becomes a problem with bearded iris.

iris indian chief

Iris “Indian Chief” is also an older nearly indestructible iris. I sometimes think of these as cemetery iris since they seem to go on indefinitely, lovingly planted by a gravestone and then neglected for the next 50 years.

The iris are a little sparse this year compared to years gone by.  I pulled out wheelbarrows full last summer to try and thin things out, so it will be another year before some of the new clumps really fill in.  Sometimes the garden needs some tough-love 🙂 They were the perfect plant for this location though, and really helped make a new border look full and settled in within the second year.

iris rhages

Iris “rhages”, another historic iris from the 1920’s. Approaching its 100 year mark and still a pleasure!

I did some moving and dividing but this bed will need some serious weeding once I can sort out what all the seedlings are.  Drought last year kept all the biennials and perennials from sprouting last fall, so the real estate was open for tons of nicotina, verbena, and rudbeckia seedlings.  Something about the winter was perfect for seed sprouting since I have things coming up that normally don’t- such as sedum seedlings- and few of the usual characters such as oxeye daisies and forget me nots.

iris kochii

Iris kochii, a bearded iris collected from the wilds of northern Italy around 1887, and my allium splurge coming on next to it. I finally broke down and shelled out the $7 for this bulb and now I’m looking forward to the softball sized blooms.

I think I’m going to collect up all the rudbeckia seedling and just spread them around throughout the border this year.  between those and a few cannas this might be a low maintenance year for the front bed. (this said while considering all the cool seeds still sitting unsown in my seed box)

streetside perennial border

I think I need a few more iris here in the middle….  With all the spring bulbs gone things are too green, but imagine it with big swaths of orange and yellow rudbeckias! (plus a few red zinnias maybe?)

A firm hand (and a shovel) were used against all the little guys drifting down towards the street.  The border may get a bit unruly but I used some leftover mulch to give it a clean edge.  Although I’m not a fan of the brown dyed mulch (it was free from next door) it gives a nice neat edge and might be the easiest thing you can do to make an “overly exuberant” planting look controlled.

mulched perennial bed

A foot or two of fresh mulch along the edge even makes the weeds look better. -yes, that’s a big chunk of coal… this part of Pennsylvania is coal country and we actually sit right above one of the mines.

The border along the house also got a little attention, but overall there’s not much to do here.  Hostas have covered up and filled in around the early bulb foliage and the columbine seed I threw around last year has grown up and added some nice blue color.  In another few weeks I’ll come along and get some annuals in, probably some of the coleus cuttings off the windowsill.

self sown columbine

Blue aquilegia filling in until the annuals get planted. With warmer weather coming the pansy’s days are numbered.

I was a little firmer with the sunflower seedlings this year.  Dozens came up (apparently all the seeds weren’t eaten by the goldfinches) but I moved all but a few to the tropical garden… which has now become a sunflower field.  A few are left though, and the neighbors will just have to deal with rank eight foot annuals mixed in with the foundation plantings.  Here’s another questionable front yard planting.  Miss Willmott’s Ghost (eryngium giganteum) is a slightly weedy looking, thistle-like biennial that is just starting to put up its bloom stalks.  This is my first year with it (the seedlings didn’t do much last summer) but I already love it.  Just look at those flawless leaves with that nice veining!

eryngium giganteum foliage

The striped leaves of iris pallida “variegata” with blue fescue and Miss Wilmott’s Ghost. I’m all into the ghost right now, but the iris deserves some more respect too. I should really give it a spot of its own, and not just these stray bits that were missed when digging the bed over.

I hope to give the vegetable garden a little attention today.  It’s overrun with weeds at a time of year when it should be brimming with harvestable lettuce.  Oh well, we have to pick our battles at this time of year, so I’ll just focus on the front with its neatly edged lawn and freshly cut grass.

iris in perennial border

How do those stupid chairs keep showing up in every picture?!

Wish me luck with the back.  Today is supposed to be warmer again and I hate breaking a sweat on a holiday.  Plus the deck needs powerwashing and there’s grilling to do… and who knows what valid reason I’ll find to sit around with a cold beverage 🙂

Such are the problems of almost-summer!

20 comments on “Happy Memorial Day!

  1. pbmgarden says:

    Your borders are looking great! The color of Iris kochii is rich and deep. Mulch adds a nice finished look. I didn’t get around to mulching this year and have lots more that usual extra seedlings cropping up everywhere.

    • bittster says:

      This is the first year kochii has done well and I’m also impressed with the rich color. I like the look of new mulch but find it hard to keep neat with all the planting and replanting I do. By the end of the summer parts look like they’ve been rototilled and all the mulch is gone! Still it’s the best way to keep the weeds down.

  2. Pauline says:

    Your front garden is so beautiful with all your iris, I especially like your first one. That is one seriously huge lump of coal that you had there, at least you should never be cold in a power cut, you have your own supply in the garden! Weeds are the same here, popping up as soon as I think I have finished weeding a bed!

    • bittster says:

      Isn’t that the most frustrating thing! You clean a bed to perfection and then the weeds sneak back in the minute your attention is elsewhere.
      The first iris is also my favorite, but there are so many different ones you could easily devote an entire garden to them….. actually as I sat contemplating the garden this afternoon that exact thought crossed my mind 🙂

  3. Christina says:

    You have a lot of lovely irises, Frank, I would welcome them all into my garden, what a shame you are too far away to pass them along! Enjoy your day, beverage and all!

    • bittster says:

      Probably a good thing you’re far away. I would be pestering you endlessly for a piece of this and a piece of that!
      I did enjoy my day. Much less productive, but it’s so good to be outside again 🙂

  4. Amy Olmsted says:

    Job well done! Nothing makes a garden look tidier more than a neat edge. There could be weeds galore but with a neat edge nobody notices the weeds. (just sayin’)
    Oh….and the Iris are looking beautiful! Mine are just coming on and it’s looking to be a great year for them!

    • bittster says:

      They are nice this year. Last year a late freeze wiped many of them out and I’m only now realizing how much I missed them!
      Another rule is that anything green looks good when freshly mown. There may be more weeds than grass, but run a mower over it and give it an edge and it can pass as the perfect green carpet 🙂

  5. Cathy says:

    It’s looking good Frank! I actually quite like the effect that mulch gives, but hardly ever get round to it myself. The iris ‘rhages’ are pretty, as are the ones in your first and last photos. You’re right, Miss W’s pristine foliage is very impressive. Hope you had a great holiday!

    • bittster says:

      If I don’t mulch the beds become an endless weed factory. The shredded wood looks nice, but in a pinch I’ll use anything to keep moisture in the ground and weeds in their place.
      It did turn out to be a great weekend, thanks!

  6. I think I may have ‘Indian Chief’, inherited from the former owners here.

    • bittster says:

      That’s very likely. I think it’s one of the most common iris that get passed around and planted. how can you resist such a nice, low maintenance plant?

  7. Chloris says:

    I love all your irises, but then I don’ t think I ever saw an iris that I don’ t like.
    Your garden is looking good and I am amazed at how quickly it has caught up after your dreadful winter. You really raced through spring.
    I love your lump of shiny black coal. Now that’ s something you don’ t see in other peoples’ gardens.

    • bittster says:

      It’s sad to see spring go by so quickly. I do enjoy summer too though!
      I’ve been stalking iris websites lately and you’re right that it’s hard to find one you don’t like…. I’m afraid that in a weak moment I’ll send in an order, even as the iris I have suffer neglect and overcrowding. But it’s so tempting 🙂

  8. I’m envious of your irises – and also your plentiful sunflowers. Most of mine were eaten by rabbits.

    • bittster says:

      The rabbits have been sparse this spring, I think the neighborhood cats have been busy. I like the bunnies, but didn’t even bother fencing the broccoli so we’ll see just how sparse they’ve become.
      Iris are the plus side to living on a sunny, dry, baking pan of a garden 🙂

  9. Annette says:

    Alas, another passion is revealing itself – bearded iris. Me too, I like the nameless ones, interesting colour mix. Also like the contrasting foliage of variegated iris, festuca etc. You’ve certainly lost no time making up for the long winter. Everything looks very lush and promising. I do hope you get the chance to enjoy your garden in your comfortable adirondack (?) chairs too!

    • bittster says:

      I’m afraid I may have spent too much time enjoying the garden in my comfy chairs 🙂 It’s nearly June and many things have yet to be done… but I do enjoy the warmth and the birds and the insects, and they don’t care if the weeds are growing and the beans are unplanted, the still sing their songs anyway!
      I do like the iris this spring. There have been a few bad iris seasons lately and think I might have forgotten just how nice they really are…. Right now I’m worried that more of the vegetable garden will be lost to iris plantings this summer (who needs more zucchini anyway!)
      Have a great weekend 🙂

  10. Your garden beds look great, love all the bearded iris and hosta! I grow a few bearded iris, Japanese iris and a lot of hosta! Check out my recent hosta post!

    • bittster says:

      Hi Michael and thanks, I loved the hosta post. I’m “off” hosta at the moment but as shade spreads into my garden I might find a spot or two for a new one. Your steaked hosta is especially cool!

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