I trust everyone’s enjoying our somewhat brisk La Nina winter? Rather wet and cool for sure, but weather promising for a lovely summer. However our soil is now much too wet to be disturbed and we’re keeping right off our beds until the sun comes back.
So it’s a useful time to experiment with things like the golden Satala Aphrodite in the water temple. There’s a little fine-tuning to go but she’s now in place with three iridescent peacock-blue panels linking her to Ted Secombe’s copper-red fountain in the pond below. We’re also working on a new area of the garden, the slope behind the summer house at the far end of the terrace.
Antone Bruinsma's 'Seed of Flight'
This is an interesting spot. There’s shade from the fernleaf beech and sun just metres away. The sun will be good for a collection of Iris ensata, the so-called Japanese water iris, while the shade will be handy for some hostas we’ve been hiding around the back for a while. I’m also thinking of using one of Antone Bruinsma’s sculptures here, his Seed in Flight. I think this lovely piece could be just right on a tall plinth rising up out of a field of iris.
Water iris on a slope, is this sensible? Surely they’re better in shallow water on level ground? Now I’ve been researching Japanese iris and it’s true I. ensata enjoys moist soil but contrary to most opinion this plant does not like swimming around in paddy fields. Ensata will tolerate these conditions for a while and this is something Japanese gardeners spotted 1,500 years back.
The ancient strains in this famous group of iris, the Edos, the Ise and the Higos, were originally associated with the Japanese emperor and were for a long time grown in gardens open only to the aristocracy. These were flooded as the irises flowered to enable royal courtiers and their ladies to enjoy the blooms twice over, the flowers on the plants and their reflections from the water.
These images courtesy of botanyboy.org
Japanese Iris Garden at Tenmangu Shrine, Dazaifu Kyushu Japan
Benihanagasa’ Higo Iris. The coloured outer rim of the flower is called fukurin, meaning “ornamental border”.
Beautiful Yokohama Nursery Japanese Iris Woodblock Prints courtesy of callowayart.com
Monet planted Japanese iris in his garden for the same reason. They don’t like water for long however and after flowering the emperor’s gardens were drained. I. ensata loves rich soil. Indeed it’s almost impossible to over-fertilize these plants. The more they’re given the more luxuriant their flowers.
So, the plan is to grow our plants on a sunny slope with some extra water courtesy of Season’s waste water recycling system. We’ll use astilbes in the dappled shade around the edge of the beech and hostas under the tree. Our iris garden is still a work-in-progress, though you’re welcome to see how it’s coming along.
See you in the garden – Jeremy Francis