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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Swan Patrol!

photo by suzanne * spring 1999

When I bought this house, there was such a large back yard, with absolutely nothing around, save some trees.  I had to take a few of them out, because they were dead. Well, some of my friends would donate bulbs and cuttings to my cause.  I couldn't afford professional landscaping, and, even if I didn't always know what I was getting, I took it gladly!    But, as time goes on, and flowers flourish, one needs to expand to keep things alive.  Thus, the 'Swan' garden.  It's primary digs are white and yellow iris, Shasta daisies, a few viola plants, and some monkey grass.

The daisies were given to me by a friend from work.  She just brought me a couple of clumps...I'm like, 'what the'...?  They looked liked nothing!  Well, I got them home, found an off-the-wall spot, and just stirred up the dirt enough to 'plunk' the clumps in it.  It was a slightly shady spot, but the clumps didn't care.  They started getting greener in a few days, the leaves perked up, and then, within a couple of weeks, I could see some actual growth, and runners coming from underneath!  "Man!"  These dudes are gonna make it!  And they did!  I couldn't believe it, but here came more-it was getting cold, and I wondered how they would fare throughout the winter. I covered them lightly with our 'Texas fallen leaves', and sat back.  They did survive and I was able to transplant them.  The one thing I found tho, is not to drown them with water, or they will wilt and die.  The following photo shows how they began to flourish in the first year.

photo by suzanne
They grew tall and plentiful.  This spot is shady most of the day...there is a large tree nearby.  So, I think 'shasta daisies' are pretty hardy almost anywhere.  I did, later purchase some other types of daisies, 'margerita daisies', and 'dahlberg daisies', but didn't have the same results.

photo by suzanne * spring 2000

This photo gives a better view of the border.  We dug the bed into a semi-circle shape, and bordered it with sprigs of 'monkey grass', which did grow in nicely, and it did make mowing easy.  In the lower left is a clump of 'violas' donated by my next door neighbor Lee.  She had them everywhere, and they were easy to start.  Now they LOVE all the water you're willing to part with.  They can be lying flat down from the heat, and perk up within just a few minutes.  In early spring, and again in the fall, they will bloom with small deep violet flowers.  I have given clumps of this to other friends myself.  Violas are so easy and make good bordering plants. 

I was very picky about coordinating depth of color and foliage...after all, I was accumulating so much, I could draw out plans and I used old, gardening books to help with arrangement of plants.  You can see how large the 'iris' plants are...does this REALLY mean "everything grows big in Texas"?  I think not!   A little old man in the neighborhood had a cardboard sign out front of his house "Iris for Sale-$1.00 a Clump".  So, I stopped by...this was in 1994.  He had rows and rows of all kinds of iris of many colors!  But, he said I couldn't have any of the snow white iris...they had been cared for by his late wife, and he wasn't giving any up...he said he didn't have enough.  Well, I hounded him and begged, and he finally gave in and gave me a few roots, or a 'clump' as he described it.   There are white iris in this bed-they grew so tall, you couldn't cut them to bring in.  I did find a tall bottle that I could put some in to enjoy indoors.  You can see how tall the iris foliage is.  These were large plants and the blooms were also very large...mmmm, smelled like grapes!  Some of the white ones get very tall, they lean over, so I try to cut them and bring them in to keep them off the ground.

Well, I needed an anchor, or focal point for this garden-it makes me think of a pond, with it's tall foliage and the daisies swaying in the front.  So much green, glistening with sparks of yellow and white.  Now, I was never a fan of swan planters...but, for some reason, it seemed as tho nothing else would fit!  And, probably, I found a good price on this molded plastic know, $2.00 or $3.00, and decided to take a chance.  We turned a black pot upside down to prop the swan up above the ground because he couldn't be seen admist the plants.  And the foliage covered up the pot nicely.  I planted white periwinkle in the swan, but, you know, I had a lot of trouble keeping anything alive in that planter, so I gave up.  Even so, it all came together pretty nicely, and later, I planted some umbrella plants at the back of this bed.
And the Swan continues to patrol and watch over!

Some tips for 'Iris' from MY diary

* Iris love a lot of sun.  If planting in a cluster, they should be placed where each plant draws the attention of the same amount of sun in order to bloom concurrently.

* And it's true!  You can  just drop a root or two here and there, and they will take.  But I would rather place them to be standing up when they start rooting.  And I point the roots in certain directions so they will not grow up 'willy nilly'.  I want all of the foliage facing in the same direction. 

* When it's time to transplant, you MUST have this done by early fall-September at best.   This will insure more successful blooming in the spring.  I thought you could just move them on a whim and get instant blooms...not on your life!  You will have to wait almost a year for them.  Once the blooming season is over, you can go ahead and transplant for the following spring-it's okay.  Just don't go beyond the deadline.  I have a few purple iris that bloom in February-don't know why, but I run out and get them to enjoy inside, and they really smell like grapes!

* As the summer progresses, and starts burning green stuff, I go along with a pair of scissors and trim the foliage of my iris.  Each plant gets cut into a fan shape to about 6 inches high...hehe!  I know-it's crazy, and I wish I had a photo to show you.  But some of the leaves will die or fall over and you have to go along and pick them up.  Cutting them back makes the plant look cleaner, and they withstand the heat better.

* And, it's okay to leave the top part of the root exposed, in fact, I've read that you should do that, even tho it sounds unhealthy for the plant. Plus, sometimes they will fall over, so I try to pack soil around to the back to help them stand up.

That's all I have today friends!  Thank you so much for visiting.  I hope you enjoyed and learned.  I couldn't find a Swan poem or quote that I wanted to share...they were all too sad.  So, I did find a quote from the internet (I'm embarrassed I can't remember which site) that I particularly liked.


"To pick a flower is so much more satisfying than just observing it, or photographing it ... 
So in later years, I have grown in my garden as many flowers as possible for children to pick." 
-  Anne Scott-James  

Happy Birthday MOM!!!
I Love You!


  1. Good information on iris. My SIL's father gave me some gorgeous iris a few years back, and I carefully flew with them from NC back to Colorado, then transplanted them, and they all DIED. The nerve of those iris. But I put them where they did not get enough sun. This time when we go back to NC in Sept. I will know to plant them in SUN.

    Similar experience with daisies. I thought they would never "take" from a start my neighbor gave me, but they are doing fine now. I'll take a pic and put them on my blog this weekend. Happy Gardening, Susan!

  2. Hi Susan, as I type this I'm looking at that pretty butterfly pic - it's lovely.
    The swan sits beautifully amongst the flowers - funny how some things are just meant for a particular spot in the garden. I enjoy whimsical things dotted here and there as well. Sort of puts your own personality into the garden doesn't it.
    I was interested to read about the hardiness of the Shasta Daisies. I'd had Margeritas, they got a bit leggy so I pruned them (not all that viciously either) but they just packed up and died after that. I'll definitely give the Shastas a try.
    I've often wondered why, what I thought were Irises, were cut into fan shapes in peoples' gardens ... now I know!
    Thanks for another great post full of garden info. Enjoy your weekend break :D)

  3. That was a good article, and specially good advice on how to grow irises. I never seemed to have any luck with daisies, no matter where I planted them, and finally gave up, they are like poppies, that can't stand too much water. Your Birthday card arrived this morning, thank you for the wishes

  4. Hi Mom! Hope you're having a wonderful Birthday! I'm glad you liked my tips on iris. And I know what you mean about the daisies. The only ones I could grow were the Shasta. Too much water will do them in. Have a great Birthday * Love to You!

  5. Nancy, most of the time Iris don't like to be pampered. I've seen them flourish on abandoned properties, but what a difference it makes when they do get a little water and attention. You'll do good this next time around. And I'd love to see your daisies! I used to buy them when I was in my early 20's living in an apartment 6 for $.50. They were so cheap then, and I loved them. It was even better raising them on my own. Thank you for reading...have a great, cool weekend.

  6. Susan, I liked the butterfly too. And I agree about the Margerita daisies. They were so pretty when I bought them, but I just couldn't keep them alive. I never bought anymore. The Dahlberg daisies are really sweet...the foliage is fernlike and the blooms are tiny yellow. I've had them in pots and they will come back, but they're hard to take care of. I can't seem to find the right spot for them. They just don't get full during the season. And it's neat to put objects of interest in a garden. Sometimes you don't even have to can find an old rusty tea kettle or even a broken clay pot to use. The iris is such an old plant. We had them at home when I was growing up. I don't remember my parents cutting the leaves, but I can't stand for the tips to turn brown, so I started cutting them. And I think the Swan was a perfect touch to this garden. Thanks for coming by. Ah, the weekend at last!


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