Sunday Morning Garden Chat: Fleur-de-lis

raven iris 20 apr 13
My thanks to faithful commentor Raven for this particularly gorgeous photo — and also to his wife, who he insists is the Head Gardener.

As a “good enough, just barely” gardener, I can attest that these old-fashioned irises are the next thing to unkillable. I acquired my starter roots twenty-plus years ago, when the clump tucked into a rocky outcropping outside our rented Auburndale condo stopped flowering, and I decided that dividing them might help. (It did; I still see that clump on the rare occasions when we drive past.) Since I had no better place for them, the excess rhizomes got stuck in a shallow plastic planter that came along with us when we bought our current house the next year. They’ve flourished & multiplied mightily since then, brightening every spare corner, surviving crowding, drought, rainy summers that mildewed every other perennial, record-breaking cold winters, record-breaking non-snow winters, road salt, and general neglect. Highly recommended!

My gardening plans for the last couple weekends got shot down when the Spousal Unit decided we needed an(other) impulse rescue cat. Rocket is a gorgeous lanky ginger boy, and we’re lucky to have him (even our preexisting cat Piper agrees, somewhat grudgingly), but integrating a new companion animal with our three variously brain-damaged rescue dogs is a time-sucking challenge. But things are settling down (knock wood) and the weather is finally feeling like it’ll be safe to pull back the winter mulch and start bedding out the tougher annuals.

What’s going on in your gardens, this week?

63 replies
  1. 1
    raven says:

    Aw, isn’t that nice!

  2. 2
    WereBear says:

    Snow has melted, but the ground has not thawed.

    And I picked the wrong week to go on vacation. (Didn’t go anywhere. Got projects done around the place.)

    Awesome iris pic, Raven. A favorite flower, and tough as nails.

  3. 3
    raven says:

    I should add a thanks to all the folks who have asked about the progress of my wife after her surgery. She’s a little uncomfortable but doing well. It is amazing that they have disk surgery to the point that the patient is up and walkiing that day.

  4. 4
    evap says:

    I have similar irises in bloom and I can also highly recommend them — set em and forget em — they are very realiable.

    Spring finally arrived, late this year, with temps in the 70s and close to 80. I responded by planting tomatoes and peppers… then it got down to the 30s on Friday night… I’m sure Mother Nature is taking kickbacks from the local garden shops as everyone is probably going to have to replant tomatoes.

  5. 5
    Aimai says:

    Every iris has its own unique scent. I used to have some baby blue bearded iris that smeled deliciously of candy. Not sickeningly sweet or fake vanilla but somehow the essence of childhood Easter morning.

  6. 6
    c u n d gulag says:

    In Upstate NY, the trees are just starting to warm up enough to start showing a wee wearin’ o’ the green.

    And the weeds are doing just fine, spectacularly even, thank you for asking.

    The flowers?
    Uhm… Not so much…

  7. 7
    bemused says:

    Spring? What is this spring you speak of? Said while looking outside at 2 feet of snow on the ground.

  8. 8
    JPL says:

    @raven: That is good news. The flower is gorgeous and helps brighten the day.
    Let’s hope we have a slow news week. I know that will allow 24/7 to concentrate on terrorism all the time but since I don’t have cable, I don’t care.

  9. 9
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    Last fall I went to the iris show at MO Botanical Gardens and the wife and I bought about a dozen different types. Was really looking forward to seeing them this spring until my one true neighbor (borders my property) told me Irises don’t bloom the first year as they need a year to get acclimated to their new planting. Sigh….

    Then I had one bloom. Dainty little yellow with purple highlights blossom. It will hold me until next year. All our other iris beds are seriously overcrowded and barely bloom at all. This fall I will get in there and split them. Then again, I been saying that ever since we moved in 4 years ago.

    Everything else? Waiting, waiting, and waiting some more… I put in my brussel sprouts and broccoli 3 weeks ago, lettuce and spinach 2 weeks ago and haven’t dared to go any further since. The weather is just too dicey. As many days in the low 40’s as there are in the mid 70’s with almost every night temps dropping into the 30’s (usually high 30’s but flirting with freezing from time to time)

    What a difference the weather is this year from last. Much more the normal. Last year our last frost came in late March (usually 4/15) with temps consistently in the 70’s -80’s. From there straight into summer heat with an ensuing heat wave, 100+ for 3 weeks, and a drought which had half the springs around here drying up and the Meramec River at historic lows.

    This spring the river has been flirting with flooding 3 or 4 times, and this week it finally jumped it’s banks after we got 4″ + rain Wednesday night and Thursday.

    Went cat fishing on the Mississippi a couple times last summer, and never saw it so low. They almost stopped all barge traffic at one point. This week they predict a crest at St Louis of 39 feet. For perspective, 40 feet is considered a major flood and in over a hundred years of record keeping it has only topped 40′ 7 times.

    Here’s to a different year from last….

  10. 10
    RoonieRoo says:

    That iris is gorgeous. Thank you very much for that photo Raven. I love iris but they do not do well down in Central Texas. They are one plant I truly miss since moving further south. I hope your wife continues to improve. What they can do nowadays is always amazing in the surgical field.

    In my garden, I’m watching the onions and garlic start to bulb. I think I’m going to get some pretty good sized onions this year. My tomatoes have also started to put on a few blooms. I’m still a month out before production starts in earnest.

  11. 11
    Steeplejack (tablet) says:

    It’s 41° in NoVa this morning, going up only to 57° later. Weird. Yesterday felt like a sunny autumn day.

    No big plans. My lower back has been tight, so I’m taking it easy and working that out. Dinner with the bro’ man and his entourage at Sighthound Hall tonight.

  12. 12
    HeartlandLiberal says:

    Temp dropped to 31 degrees overnight here in south central Indiana, still too early to put seedlings out. Cold weather crops have been in ground for almost three weeks.

    Yesterday I prepared trays with seeds for all the stuff that wants the last frost past, squashes, pumpkins, cucumbers, some specialty hot peppers, and especially the okra, which wants warmth, period. Hopefully they will sprout and get started in the cold frames over next three weeks, and then can go in the ground past all danger.

    I plan to just buy tomatoes and most peppers and eggplant from dealers. There are plenty of options, including heirloom tomato varieties, available locally.

    Today and tomorrow I will be strapping on my kneepads, and weeding and mulching and enriching the strawberry bed. They are already blooming, I really should have already taken care of it, but we had a spell of four days of wet and rain over past week.

  13. 13
    Maude says:

    @Steeplejack (tablet):
    Turn up the heat on the Cat Command Center.
    It’s in the 30’s here and I have the little heater on.

  14. 14
    Maude says:

    My mother had a gift with stawberries. She grew the best berries ever. When she was a kid, she’d be picking the berries at 5 a. m.
    She used aged horse manure. Oh, it stank.

  15. 15
    NCgumbo says:

    Here in central NC, spring has re-sprung after a bout of summer. Veggie garden is schizophrenic, as the newly-planted seeds for sugar snaps and cool-weather greens germinated right along with the volunteer tomatoes from last year. Guess that’s what happens when we go from sleeting to 85 degrees in the span of 2 days.

    Red buds have finished here, dogwoods are still flowering, and all the perennials are growing so fast you can almost catch them at it.

    The best news is that we had a long hard rain two nights ago that washed the blanket of pollen off of everything so that the world looks sharp and clear, rather than blurred yellow around the edges.

  16. 16
    debit says:

    We got a foot of snow a few days ago. Spring is never going to arrive. I just going to weep quietly in the corner while the rest of you talk about planting.

  17. 17
    Steeplejack (tablet) says:


    The housecat is on double secret probation. She did a standing body stretch with claw traction on the laptop keyboard and broke off the 8 key. The key cap’s tiny plastic mechanism came apart, and so far I haven’t been able to put it back together.

    I need to figure out what exactly probation involves, because right now she is dozing contentedly against my leg as per usual. No loss of privileges so far.

  18. 18
    satby says:

    Last night it went down to 27 degrees and more overnight freezes expected for s western MI this week. I started the onions and lettuces in pots on the deck so I can cover them during frosty nights, but the shrubs and trees I ordered arrived Friday and I hope to plant them today. They beat yhe tree tubes here, but those will come this week.

  19. 19
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @debit: You and my Minnesota sis.

  20. 20
    Valdivia says:

    @Steeplejack (tablet):

    if you figure out how to do probation please do let me know. After our old boy Jinvah died I brought in another young cat to make sure the other young cat didn’t drive the remaining old boy (sissu) mad. The young ones get up to no good all day and all night (the latest is hanging from the curtains. I haven’t figured out how to do probation yet! :)

  21. 21
    Phylllis says:

    We’re trying a couple of tomato plants in pots on the patio this year, along with basil and lemon thyme. The patio gets th right amount of sun for the maters and I’m tempted to try bell peppers out there as well. We can’t do flowers or other ornamentals anywhere in the deer line of sight, because they’ll gobble it up. Like my $80 bux worth of petunias they decimated last year.

    Glad to hear Raven’s DW is doing so well.

  22. 22
    Maude says:

    @Steeplejack (tablet):
    I used to put kitty in recliner jail. It didn’t work.
    There’s a website where you can order computer keys.
    Cats are impossible.

  23. 23
    tmf (fka tesslibrarian) says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I don’t have irises blooming, but everything else is busting out this year–including plants that haven’t had blossoms in several springs. The rain has made them very happy, making up for a very cool March here.

    When I went out to look at the remains of my garden (herbs that survive year to year, mostly, and the skeletal remains of giant African basil bushes and tomato vines), it looks like the oregano is about to overtake one planter. That’s fine by me, but I will be trimming it back to make space for vegetables. My tomatoes burned in the heat last year, but somehow, every spring, I find reasons to think “this year is different!”

    ETA: All to say, yes, here’s to normal seasons! (And why am I in moderation? FYWP.)

  24. 24
    Steeplejack (tablet) says:


    Yelling always helps. At least it makes me feel good.

    Maybe a cat tree? Although I have to admit there is nothing like the sensation of scaling a really lush piece of drapery.

  25. 25
    geg6 says:


    Spectacular pic, dude. And glad to hear the wife is doing okay. And I share your amazement at the state of orthopedic surgery these days. When John had his double knee replacement, they had him up within several hours of his surgery. I couldn’t believe it. And if she is faithful to her PT plan like John was, she’ll heal and strengthen all the more quickly. John was off both the walker and the cane within three weeks, much ahead of schedule. Moving slow and with some discomfort, but so amazing to me. It’s over a year now, and you’d never guess how bad his knees were before the surgery. He even tripped and fell into the driveway recently and it was just the usual scraped knees and bumps. No lingering problems. Can’t get over how much better his quality of life is now.

  26. 26
    MomSense says:

    I can see crocuses! Otherwise the garden is pretty rough. Most everything is still under the ground. Lots of leaves and branches and things to rake and pick up. The snow support over a couple of our shrubs broke so I am going to see if creative pruning will be enough.

  27. 27
    Schlemizel says:

    The foot of snow we got Thursday is melting but it will put everything back a couple weeks at least. Its not helping my mood.

    Does anyone have hints on how to integrate cats? We have tried it twice. Years ago we had our first cat for about 4 years then saved a kitten and brought it home. We tried everything but had to give the kitten to friends to keep the older cat from killing it. years later we got our now 18 year old matriarch. Our daughter brought home a stray kitten and we followed all the instructions about keeping them separate, making it obvious that neither my wife or I brought the kitten in etc. that was 7-8 years ago and they still don’t get along. Fights, hissing, staring contests.

    I wouldn’t mind rescuing a couple more cats but I don’t think it would be good for them or us

  28. 28
    Valdivia says:

    @Steeplejack (tablet):


    you’ve tried it? ;)

    the truth is that they are way too cute at this young age to even try to repress that curious spirit. Quincy who is about a year and I got him when he was 9 months old (he is an orange tabby like my two old boys) is the mischievous cat. From the beginning he liked scaling heights (one night he got on top of the bookcase in my room and started reorganizing my books–i.e. throwing them on the floor). But now that he has a young partner to play with (a grey/white tabby we called Lumi, Finnish for snow) he has stopped chasing the old cat’s tail and uses his energy to wrestle and maybe a little drapery climbing. But I wouldn’t want them to be any less exuberant. It is nice having that around, and the old boy seems to enjoy it now that he can observe and he is not the object of the harassment. Lumi brought the balance we needed. :)

    ETA: I have had some success with the water spray bottle. Quincy came with some very bad human food habits. But now he knows jumping on the table mid dinner to eat our food is not ok. He has to be the cleanest cat on earth because I get to use that thing every day. But he learns from it and doesn’t seem to resent me for it. I hope!

  29. 29
    waratah says:

    @raven: My husband had just figured out when to press the morphine drip for maximum comfort and had the bed adjusted just right when the nurse told him he would get released. He put up a fight and said no he was not going when the nurse told him he had no chance. The doctor had the same surgery
    and was released that early.

  30. 30
    PeakVT says:

    Cleaning windows and putting in screens are on the list today. I got out the hose a few days ago but I had to drain yesterday it as it went below freezing last night.

  31. 31
    LittlePig says:

    I’ve had water dribbling on my roses all night. I’ve got a boatload (my son stopped counting at sixteen and agreed that it will indeed be a boatload) ready to bloom today and tomorrow.

    If I could only grow tomatoes like that. Roses seem to be my only green-thumbed venture.

  32. 32
    LittlePig says:

    @Valdivia: I’ve found it is best when you can spray without yelling or otherwise indicating anything out of the ordinary is going on. Then it becomes more ‘Finger Of God’ than ‘Watch your boots, bubby boy”.

  33. 33
    Cathy W says:

    My perennial flowers are starting to come back! Also my thyme and chives in the herb garden. And the strawberries (which are also escaping their box – it feels sad to dig up strawberry plants from anywhere, but if they’re not where I want them, they’re not where I want them…). My job for today is to build a chicken-wire cage for the strawberry box so this year I, and not my assorted critters, get the berries.

    I’m trying to start lettuce, coriander/cilantro, and a couple marigolds indoors (no luck so far – the seeds might have been old, or my warm sunny spot might have been not as warm as I thought), and I’ve got seeds for other flowers and herbs. Plus, I’m ordering tomatoes, basil, and hot peppers from a local non-profit.

    Also, I found out I have a cactus plant, planted by the previous homeowner somewhere it was kind of obscured from view last year. Who knew cactus would grow and survive through the winter in Michigan?

  34. 34
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    Also decided to expand the herb garden to app 2X. Tilled up a bumper crop of rocks (we grow good rock here) and cut the satellite cable line that for whatever idiotic reason was run thru the original garden. Only had Verizon for internet all last week and it sucked. Cost $125 for the service call plus $58 for the cable, but this time I dug the trench for it so it did not go thru the garden. The combination of chert and clay we have around here is like busting out concrete but now I know where it goes.

  35. 35
    Yutsano says:

    So I kinda buried this in a semi-dead thread, but we got the first concrete evidence of our layoff notices. Five Fridays off so far, all around holidays this summer, with possibly more to be handed down. Serenity now…

  36. 36
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    Speaking of clay and chert… I just want to say that that Jesus guy was a real piker. Walking on water…. Turning water into wine… HA! Now in my 4th spring at this location and I can now brag that I have managed the miracle of turning the dirt in my Ozark ridge top garden into actual honest to Dog bottom land soil!

    Beat that you jeebus freaks!

  37. 37
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Yutsano: Sucks.

  38. 38
    Schlemizel says:


    I hope that the results are not too painful, having been through this sort of thing myself I know it is no fun. Don’t let the bastards get you down

  39. 39
    peggy says:

    Nightshades(tomatoes) are poisonous, that should help with the deer problem.

    I’d also suggest catmint- nepetea. It is a perennial that comes in lots of sizes and blooms all summer, so you will have fun watching the bees. Since I live in the city of Boston, where we have turkeys and coyotes, but no deer, I can’t vouch for deer proof qualities.

  40. 40
    jnfr says:

    We had a foot of snow last week. It’s pretty much melted now, but the ground’s really soggy, so no digging yet.

    I haven’t managed to catch the rabbit that’s living under our shed next to the garden beds, but I am putting out the Havahart morning and evening, and I’m determined to have it out of there!

    In growing news, my tomato seedlings are growing up nicely. I have eight tomatoe seedlings and two eggplants growing next to my also-very-happy Legal in Colorado pot plants.

    So as a gardener, I am so far content. Except for that damn rabbit.

  41. 41
    Phylllis says:

    @peggy: I’ll check that out. Thanks.

  42. 42
    evodevo says:

    That looks like the old-fashioned iris I see around here in rural Ky. They are super hardy. You can spot old house foundations from the 19th century here, even if it’s totally overgrown, by the associated irises and daffodils planted by some long ago housewife to brighten up her farmhouse. The owners and the house are long gone, but the flowers are still there out-competing the weeds and providing a bright spot.

  43. 43
    evodevo says:

    Oh, and our local ravening deer horde has eaten every tomato plant (and they were huge plants) I had last year down to the roots. Doesn’t seem to affect them at all, unfortunately.

  44. 44
    artem1s says:

    Hoping the weather holds enough to get in and prep the garden for planting greens. Tomatoes are starting and ready to go into the ground once frost date is passed (5/30 here on the north coast). Gonna have way too many tomatoes this year. hopefully it will be warm again this summer with a little more rain. Erie is still low. Not enough snow this winter.

  45. 45

    Much admiration for the gardening folks.

    Here’s a pic of our flower amongst the bushes from yesterday. :)

  46. 46
    WaterGIrl says:

    @Steeplejack (tablet): @Valdivia: I ordered the best cat tree ever at WereBear’s recommendation. My kitties love love love it, use it all the time, and after 3 years it’s still in great shape. I think it cost about 125.00.

    Let me know if you’re interested and I can dig out the URL for ordering.

  47. 47
    MomSense says:

    Ok this is not my garden but I do buy most of our veggies from these beautiful farmers. So if you were to see my giant, healthy boys–this is what fuels them!

    And if you want some glorious farm/produce pron–here is their website.

  48. 48
    peggy says:

    Sorry, it’s Agastache Cana, a different type of mint. Three feet tall, pink and covered with bumblebees. The foliage has a wonderful fragrance.

  49. 49
    CarolDuhart2 says:

    @Yutsano: Yutsano, I’m in the same boat as you, but a seasonal. It’s going to suck. But at least by having them long weekends, I could get a few things done.

    Anybody have any idea about how to get cheap paint? Or ideas on white paint and whether it’s a good idea for redecorating a tall loft apartment?

  50. 50
    Steeplejack says:


    Mmm . . . damask . . .

  51. 51
    Steeplejack says:


    Well, try to enjoy the time off, mandatory (and unpaid) though it may be. Long weekends are nice.

  52. 52
    Mike in Oly says:

    Love the iris pic. I’ve been collecting old irises for over a decade and am a bit of an expert. Historic irises (those over 30 years of age) are often very hardy and good growers. The really old ones even more so. This looks like ‘Lent A. Williamson’ (Williamson, 1918), one of the first tetraploid bearded irises and a very widespread and well known old variety. Tough as nails and can survive easily in neglect. Bearded irises should be divided every 3-4 years to keep them blooming. Their rhizomes pile up on top of each other and can’t reach dirt after several years and that will stop them blooming. Also, deer don’t bother irises. Other than stepping on a newly planted one and sinking it too deep I’ve never had any problem with them. Learn more about the oldies from the Historic Iris Preservation Society:
    Or drop me a line with questions. I’m their webmaster. =)

  53. 53
    Steeplejack says:


    I’d be interested in what you got.

  54. 54
    MomSense says:


    Do you know the website

    You could probably find a thousand photos of tall loft apartments painted white. You can also search for metro area, etc.

  55. 55
    Yutsano says:

    @Steeplejack: I’m definitely gonna see if my folks can assist with the car payment (not the whole thing, just covering half) and the housecleaning contract will have to go. I might have to go to an extreme measure and break my lease a couple months early and find a cheaper place to live, unless I’m going to New Mexico or Hawai’i. It ain’t gonna be fun or pretty, but it beats no money coming in at all.

  56. 56
    WaterGIrl says:

    @Steeplejack: Just checked my invoice, and it’s two years old, not three. Best thing I ever bought for the kitties.

    Roller Rink Kitty Tree

  57. 57
    Mike E says:


    Oh, and our local ravening deer horde has eaten every tomato plant

    Suckers eat poison ivy too, they can’t get enough of it. It’s just that yards like yours are a veritable Applebee’s salad bar, too hard to resist.

  58. 58
    Steeplejack says:


    Thanks, will take a look.

  59. 59
    cckids says:


    Anybody have any idea about how to get cheap paint? Or ideas on white paint and whether it’s a good idea for redecorating a tall loft apartment?

    Speaking from my own sad experience, don’t go too cheap on the paint – find a sale if possible & buy a middle-of-the road one. The time I attempted to paint with cheap paint I ended up using twice as much & still didn’t like the result. I like Behr or Valspar, they seem to have decent sales at Home Depot & Lowes or Ace.

    On color, I’ve got no clue.

  60. 60
    Yutsano says:

    @CarolDuhart2: White paint is boring. Get a gay male friend to give a few suggestions, then go about one to two steps more conservative. I’m very partial to deep crimsons for living rooms because it looks lush, but YMMV.

  61. 61
    mazareth says:

    Nothing going on here in Central Wisconsin yet. It’s snowing as I type this.

    I have the next two days off. I may start some seeds – kale and other cole crops, tomatoes, basil, and maybe some annuals.

    I have two vegetable beds. I’m thinking about planting one of the beds with a soup bean to get some nitrogen into the soil. My tomato plants got hit pretty badly with late blight last summer. Giving the bed that had the tomatoes a rest should help with the blight next summer.

  62. 62
    Anne Laurie says:


    I wouldn’t mind rescuing a couple more cats but I don’t think it would be good for them or us

    Some cats just don’t want to share, and after 18 years your old girl has probably earned her singleton status. But the general rule for introducing a new ‘intruder’ is that opposite-gender is easier (male kitten for your female householder) and the younger, the better (tiny kittens mostly get a ‘manners exemption’ from adult cats).

    Of course, being as there are so many desparate cases, rules will go out the window. We were planning to bring in either a young female or a pair of littermates from this spring’s feral kitten crop to give Piper a playmate. But The Redhead had been returned with extreme prejudice (he chews holes in clothing) to a rescuer who’d just been gifted with a second litter of abandoned newborns to bottle-feed, so our Ninja gets a housemate who’s a year older and just a little taller than he is… he’s coping, but he’s not real happy, poor dude.

  63. 63
    Cmm says:

    My partner is rebuilding the raised beds in the front yard as I write this. She built a lovely keyhole garden in the backyard a few weeks ago but it remains unplanted while she works out a system to keep it accessible to humans while keeping out the chickens who want to get TOO free with their free ranging, and the dogs who want the trample all the plantings to get at the rotting stuff in the compost tube in the middle.

    Speaking of dogs, I love that Anne Laurie describes her three rescued dogs as brain damaged. Nice to know we aren’t the only ones. We have one chihuahua mix who was rescued on a freeway, and who we swear bounced on her pretty empty head a few times when she landed there. The other Chihuahua mix has severe “queen of fucking everything” delusions and our pit mix has the kind of separation anxiety the leads to the destruction of major furniture items and/or load bearing walls. We don’t have a fully attached screen in the house because he has pretty much hurled himself through every one at some point. Oh, wait, the one over the kitchen sink is still intact. For the moment…but they are the best napping buddies in the world, all three of them, and when I am having trouble getting my needed quota of daytime sleep, piling them on the bed and letting them nap there around me will almost always send me to dreamland as well. Symbiosis!

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