Twilight. And the clover leaves have folded,
All the flowers gleaming white above them,
Waiting for the stars, alike for dawning,
Scented faint of springtime and of honey.
From the earth the darkness rises,
Flows about my feet among the clover;
Overhead the stars are not yet shining,
But below their ageless gleam is mirrored,
Bloom by twilit bloom, across the hillside.
All the slender stems rise up to hold them,
All the rounded leaves lie tight together;
And the blooms lamp quietly the gloaming,
All the absent stars of evening sprinkled
Round my feet to shine among the shadows.
The first flower has just opened on Iris germanica "Indian Chief". And what a beauty it is!
While it is not the first iris of the season, having been beaten out by the dwarf arilbred "Pixie Power" (not to mention the little rock garden irises), it is the first I. germanica variety to bloom this year. And more importantly, it is the very first flower from my new project growing heritage irises.
This requires an explanation. As I gardened in Arizona, I found myself focusing more and more on native and species plants. And as this change occured, the heavily developed hybrid flowers with their ever-larger, more spectacular blooms began to look a little out of place beside the leaner, simpler, often-very-elegant species flowers. To blend with my preferred natives, I began eyeing older hybrids even in the case of well-known, classic garden plants.
I decided to try to continue this trend after I moved. While I can't say I've been at all consistent (I have not!), my order of irises last year was exclusively for heritage varieties. An online search took me to Willow Bend Iris Farm of Grand Junction, CO. I arrived a bit late in the iris-ordering season so a number of varieties were already sold out, but I was very excited about the four I finally chose.
I was looking for the svelte elegance of the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century varieties. Smaller flowers, yes, with but little of the extravagant ruffling found on today's hybrids. I wanted the classic refined arch and fall of petals, the simplicty of form that shows off the rich colors and exotic markings to the full.
The rhizomes arrived in good time and were quite healthy; not surprisinly they were a little smaller than more recent selections with their enormous blooms and matching leaf and root systems. These are good-sized garden plants but not giants.
And with the first just coming into flower, I'm as excited again as I was when ordering.
This first arrival is "Indian Chief". It has smoky standards and dark plum falls with a yellow beard and throat highlighted with zebra stripes. The buds are very long and pointed, and the first opened overnight into the fully formed flower.
"Indian Chief" was hybridized by a Dr. Ayres and was introduced in 1929. It was acclaimed at the time and is clearly still a much-respected variety. It has always been classed as a red blend, but it has a distinct bronze cast overall. One noticeably lovely effect comes from the razor-thin edge of darker color round the standards.
While the plants are too new to produce many flowers this year, I look forward to letting these bulk up. I am certain they will be particularly well-sized for cutting. And happily the scent is pleasant and not overpowering.
As you can tell, I am thrilled with my first foray into these half-forgotten varieties. I just hope the iris season won't be over very soon as the late spring flowers seem to be opening at breakneck speed just now. I haven't even posted about my late narcissi, and here we are with irises...
At long last I can introduce at least a few little vignettes from the garden. There's not much to show yet, but plants are filling in and plumping up, and for the first time they are combining to create the dance that is a growing garden.
Creating even a very small garden border has been excruciatingly slow. The fact that any bulbs were planted at all last autumn is largely due to my sister's encouragement and kind help with the digging, because my fatigue levels were too high to do it all myself. As for my hopes of filling the rest of the border this spring, those have been dashed by everyone's nemesis: the necessary Covid-19 lockdown has prevented me stocking up on new plants. As it is, my list of plants to complete the border focuses on late-bloomers and good foliage.
So it's just a little patch of garden that I am showing you, but it's nice to be able to post it.
Like any other season, spring has its stars and its supporting cast in the garden. There are the little bulbs that can be slipped into the soil by the handful in autumn to supply all the charming miniature blossoms that carpet the borders in spring. Then there are the big, bold sorts that catch the eye with a single stem.
Today's vase contains two of these latter. The first is Narcissus "Silver Smiles". It is not actually so very large, being a jonquilla type, but it is quite eye-catching. (And, indeed, my little strip of border between the walkway and the housefront is too small to house anything very large.)
First, as they open, the twin-flowered heads hang sharply downward with an elegant poise. Second, it is a delightfully sophisticated color--silvery petals with pale yellow cups that fade to champagne, according to the catalog. The very first flower is just now fading as advertised and still has a thin rim of yellow on the cup and a splash of yellow at its base.
First, a link to the earlier version of this blog at www.SmallSunnyGarden.blogspot.com, where the first two years of the original garden can be viewed.