What Happened To My Gardens?


Neglected garden has not been tended for two years.
Neglected garden has not been tended for two years.

There was a time when I took great pride in the appearance of my gardens, making sure to pluck each weed and nurture each plant to it’s prime.

Then along came a handsome man who stole my heart away. I began to spend my free time with him riding bikes along the trails of Minnesota, attempting to master the sport of golf, and generally just having a great time hanging out with that wonderful, kind, humorous soul who eventually became my fiance’.

My gardens started to lose their closely tended appearance.  An occasional spear of quack-grass poked through the decomposing layers of mulch.  Soon there were patches of grass and thistle poking through and threatening to choke out those precious perennials.

Then on a fateful day in September, 2008 that handsome man was late to arrive at work.  When I went looking for him, I discovered him lying on his kitchen floor, unable to move his left side. It was the second time in my life that I’ve called 911 in a panic (I’ll write about the first another time).

That fateful day changed our lives forever.  A stroke had immobilized my big, wonderful, hunk of a man.  It would take three months of in-house exhaustive therapy to get him back on his feet. Caring and nurturing the gardens at my house stopped that September day, as I turned my attention to the care and recovery of my soul-mate.  (Click Here to learn about signs of stroke).

Two weeks ago I began the clean-up of what becomes of gardens that have suffered two years of neglect.  My daughter accompanied me and photographed the gardens while I began to weed and mulch one garden at a time.  My goal is to have each of the gardens back in shape by the end of the summer.  As you can see, I have my work cut out for me.

These photos were taken by my daughter Heidi, as I began the “Garden Rescue Project.”
CLICK HERE to see the neglected gardens (view at your own risk).

A pull-behind sled makes a great container when you’re harvesting YARDS of weeds.

A sled full of quack grass, thistles, and creeping charlie.
A sled full of quack grass, thistles, and creeping charlie.

That evening, after several hours of intense weeding and mulching, one of the gardens began to start to look like a garden instead of a weed patch.

The weed patch began to look like a garden again.
The weed patch began to look like a garden again.

Thankfully, the company that I work for allows a flexible summer schedule so I’ll have Fridays off to tend my neglected gardens.  If all goes as planned what currently looks like this:

Neglected pond
Neglected pond

Will be on track to look like this again (in a year or two):

Pond in September, 2007
Pond before neglect set in

Bearded Iris Flowers

Bearded Iris Flowers add years of low-maintenance, vibrant beauty to your garden.

Bearded Iris Flowers
Perennial Bearded Iris Flowers create a Harvest of Memories

There are a number of reasons why one of my favorite perennial is bearded iris flowers. They’re very low maintenance, can grow in relatively poor soil, require little water, and come in a vast array of beautiful colors. There are varieties that have been passed down through generations, as well as new hybrids created by passionate iris gardeners every year.

Alice Harding Bearded Iris Flower

When I moved into my home 26 years ago, I inherited two varieties in the front yard garden.  The yellow Alice Harding which was introduced in 1933, and the Princess Beatrice that was listed in a 1931 edition of the Indian Spring Farms catalog and possibly dates back to 1898.  I think it is amazing that there are perennials in my yard that have been blooming every year since long before I was born (it’s one of the many reasons why I love perennials so much).

Bearded Iris Perennial Flower
Princess Beatrice Bearded Iris Flower. This variety possibly dates back to 1898

There are a few things to consider when planting and growing bearded iris flowers.  They can be grown from seeds (which can be very rewarding, but also requires a fair amount of patience), but more commonly are grown from rhizomes.  The rhizomes should not be fully covered with soil, but rather planted so that the top of the rhizome is slightly exposed above the ground.

The bearded iris flower rhizomes will grow in most soil types but should be in an area that is well drained.  They like a lot of sun, but will also bloom in partial shade.  Do not cover the soil with mulch as they roots need air to breath.

A common pest of the bearded iris flower is the iris borer which makes it’s home in the root and spreads easily from plant to plant as they develop into moths as adults.  Evidence of a borer infection is brown spots on the leaves.  Bearded iris flowers should be divided every 2-3 years so they don’t become overcrowded, which is apparent when the middle section of the plants start to recede in growth.

A good time for dividing and transplanting bearded iris flowers is after they’ve bloomed.  Dig them up and trim off the green tops.  Inspect the rhizomes for evidence of the iris borer and remove any infected portions.  The rhizomes can be soaked in a solution of 10% bleach water to kill any remaining eggs or borers.

Reblooming Iris Flowers

Reblooming Bearded Iris
Reblooming iris flowers offer color in the garden throughout the summer.

The reblooming variety of bearded iris flowers bloom once in the spring, and under optimum growing conditions, bloom a second time in the fall.  For more information on choosing and growing bearded iris flowers, check out the iris gardener’s encyclopedia.