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The Real Housewives of My Garden

IMG_2419

The classy way to use irises.  They were here before I arrived, naturally.

I love this moment when the flag irises, Iris pseudacorus, bloom around my pond in the country.  They are very tall–4 or 5 feet–and stately in a simple way.  And if I were an elegant person, I'd leave it at that and avoid all other more tawdry iris adventures.

But I'm not an elegant person, I'm a native of New Jersey.  (Though I have been dropping hints to my husband that he needs to watch The Real Housewives of New Jersey in order to appreciate just how far out of the primordial ooze I've managed to climb.) 

Also strange things happen, I find, when you buy a Victorian house.  Eventually, you start feeling some sympathy for an aesthetic that happens to be ornate.

It started with me at a plant sale four years ago.  Our neighbors had just taken down a giant maple tree on the border of my property, and I suddenly had sun in my yard.  I also had super-sandy soil and much of what I planted just wilted.  Perfect conditions, I was aware, for bearded irises.

So I picked up a plastic bag marked "Blue irises."  There were about fifteen rhizomes in there.  The price for whole shebang was $3.  When they first bloomed, I was ambivalent.  They are a kind of washed-out light blue.  They are clearly different from the highly bred bearded irises in that their buds are covered in what looks like brown paper.

But three years later, they are tall and beautiful in enormous clumps of spiky foliage, and I love them and am spreading them not just around my back yard, but all over the neighborhood.

IMG_2429 Hubbard Hall plant sale blues.

Now, I confess, I am really interested in beaded irises, though they are not a good plant for an impatient gardener like me, since they take two years after planting to produce a bloom, and once they do bloom, I decide they are the wrong color and move them to a different spot and set them back another two years.

But I love the velvety dark ones in particular.  They are just so outrageous and unlike anything else in the garden.  In fact, in their ample use of black and various magentas and purples and giant ruffles flying off in all directions and glowering certainty that serving as a sex object is purpose enough for anyone, The Real Housewives of New Jersey resemble them. 

IMG_2426 Admit it.  You want me.

And they–the irises–are all given what are supposed to be sexy names like "Satan's Mistress, ""Recurrent Fantasy," "Aggressively Forward," and "Fatal Attraction."

Hilarious!  Ridiculous!  Tacky!  So New Jersey!  Must order more.

Posted by on June 3, 2009 at 8:16 am, in the category Uncategorized.
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17 responses to “The Real Housewives of My Garden”

  1. Susan Cohan says:

    Hey! Watch what you say about My Garden State! We might be brash and underappreciated, but we have a world renowned Iris garden here in Montclair…The Presby Memorial Iris Gardens. Yes I want them all!

  2. Tara Dillard says:

    Great pic of your pond.

    Even if they never bloomed Iris foliage is incredibly useful for landscape design.

    And then, Nature went a step further. Iris do bloom.

    I’ve got one for shade, I. tetragona, about 8″ tall and found at a native plant sale. Great with hosta & helleborus & ferns.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  3. firefly says:

    Correction: NORTH Jersey may be a rancid armpit thanks to proximity to New York, but south Jersey (where I grew up) is home to the Pine Barrens, at 1.1 million acres the largest natural conservation area on the mid-Atlantic seaboard. It is also a UN Biosphere reserve.

    http://www.njconservation.org/html/gfa-pinebarrens.htm

    Tons of class, ranked third nationally in cranberry production, and clean water too.

    And there is still nothing like a Jersey tomato.

    http://njfarmfresh.rutgers.edu/JerseyTomato.html

  4. Michele Owens says:

    Okay, firefly, I will concede that I am only discussing North Jersey.

    Which, as Susan points out, I slam every chance I get–yet, interestingly enough, I still adore the people I grew up with and still have friends from elementary school.

  5. commonweeder says:

    I’m all in favor of sexy tacky names for beautiful bearded iris, BUT those yellow flags are invasive. Before I knew better I accepted a gift of several to plant by my pond. And then they self seeded, quite a distance away up the hill, to my very wet-in-the-spring Sunken Garden. I cannot get rid of them even with grandsons given full permission to do their worst. At least they are not sending out more seeds.

  6. John says:

    I too have a ragtag collection of iris and in the mix is a no-name simple blue just like yours. It may not be as flashy as some of the others but it spreads so much faster and blooms so much longer… I believe it will be the first to be transported to the new house.

  7. Irises, great so easy to grow, so many kinds, nicely perfumed.

    Tacky? Not really, elegant foliage, flowers open like a strip tease though.

    Woo Hoo!

    I

  8. I’ve renamed the irises on the property we rent. Instead of trying to identify them by their formal cultivars, I tend to “Alexa-lize” them: for example, we’re now growing Velvet Elvis, Yellow Wallpaper and the Ochre Ogre.

  9. Michele Owens says:

    Invisblebees, Schreiner’s needs to hire you immediately!

  10. anon says:

    It is not surprising that Iris pseudacorus thrives in NJ’s primordial ooze, as it’s on many states’ noxious weeds lists. What is surprising is that you are promoting it…

  11. joene says:

    The dark, dark purple bearded iris are my all time fave, though I do enjoy Siberians, rebloomers, and lavender and white bearded types. BTW central Jersey has some pretty spectacular areas too … Sandy Hook, Sea Bright. Nothin’ like warmth, beach, and Bruce in September. Have to agree with the North Jersey assessment, though.

  12. Lee says:

    Love the reference to real housewives, but I don’t think Irises are tacky. I think the foliage is very elegant, it always makes me think of VanGogh.

    A friend of mine has a pure white bearded iris – the bloom is HUGE – I have to get my hands on that baby.

  13. Marte says:

    Hey! My mom lives in North Jersey and it’s lovely. She has wild turkeys at her bird-feeder, 20 minutes from the bridge, and 5 minutes from the best pizza in Bergen County. Not all of North Jersey is tacky!!
    And my bearded iris are doing well in my heavy clay soil for some reason.

  14. Michele Owens says:

    Anon, thanks for pointing out that iris pseudacorus can be a problem.

    They’ve never spread outside the basin of my little pond, and for all I know, they’ve been there forever. They keep the purple loosestrife, an even bigger thug, in check.

  15. Jay says:

    Beautiful, absolutely stunning. I am jealous.

    I love the pond.

  16. Peg says:

    I love bearded irises. Currently seeking some interesting new pink varieties: mine are all too peachy or mauvey.

    I have some deep dark purply black ones: one called “Dracula’s Shadow” is amazing. My “Davy Jones’ Locker” has not bloomed yet; supposed to be deep marine blue. I saw an iris this color once but couldn’t find out what it was called.

  17. Muum says:

    I am an iris afficiando (sp?) .. esp the bearded iris. the sheer variety of color is impressive, I think.

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