Tag Archives: Plants for Borders

Glorious Irises!

I had to take a moment in this busy season to take a few pictures of these beauties. I find I get so involved and focused on the tasks and the running around I forget to take some time and really think, admire and learn.

It was very early in my gardening explorations that I became interested in Irises.  I was totally baffled by the tremendous varieties of color, shape and sizes but I knew nothing about them.  So, I learned that there were Bearded Irises and Siberian Irises, with about 300 species scattered around in the wild all over the Northern Hemisphere.  This is not counting all the cultivated species painstakingly created for color, size and flower patterns. No wonder I was confused!  In essence, Bearded Irises are taller, with wider fan shaped leaves and of course have a “beard” in the center of the fall petal.  Because the flower stem is so much taller I find I need to provide some kind of support to prevent a sudden squall from topping down the flowers. I have also found that the foliage dries out in midsummer so I find it necessary to plant a companion that will hide it later in the season. They prefer well drained soil.

Irisis in a border

Irises in a border


Bearded Irises

Bearded Irises

Bearded Iris

Bearded Irises

Siberian Irises on the other hand, do not come in a such a wide range of colors, although some new cultivars are quite striking but pricey and hard to find in garden centers. With taller upright slim blades  and clumping habit, I find them more elegant in appearance and better behaved in a border.  Some varieties are suitable in water’s edge or ponds but will also do fairly well in drier conditions.

Siberian Irisis

Siberian Irises

As you can see from some of the photos I have taken just today, whichever variety you choose, they carry quite a punch by themselves or in a mixed border.  They can become quite addicting  but are quite easy to divide and share, what varieties do you have? Hint, hint…

Louisiana Iris1

Louisiana Iris “Red Velvet Elvis”

On June third, I took a photo of this beauty.  A new addition to my collection purchased from the Penn State Master Gardener’s booth at the Boyd annual plant sale.  The photo is not quite as clear as I would like but the colors!  I can’t wait to have it come back next summer…


 “Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.”  Maya Angelou.



A Plant Deer Will Not Damage

Ricinus communis, Castor Bean Plant.

Ricinus communis, Castor Bean Plant.

As a follow up to my previous post on Datura stramonium, here is another beauty I grew this past summer.  Hard to believe that this plant is the product of one bean seed.  I sowed the seeds directly in the ground early June.  (I tried much earlier, in May, but they went to waste, as the ground has to be fairly warm for the seeds to germinate)  Castor Bean thrives in a sunny location and well drained soil.  Plants grew to six feet tall by August, each leaf easily 18 to 20 inches across.  Sadly, I had to pull them to make room for my blueberry patch which I planted in early September.

Every part of this plant is toxic, but the seeds are deadly.  They contain ricin and just one seed is enough to kill a horse.  Fortunately for us in the North, our season is not long enough for the seed pods to mature on the plant and broadcast seeds like it does in the South or in its native South Africa, care should be taken if storing seeds to keep them clearly labeled and in a secure place.

I loved this plant in my garden, in full sun it provides an interesting specimen or as a group it can create a good screen in areas where deer are a problem and you want to restrict deer traffic without damage.  As an annual, I find  it to be a great filler in an immature  border while newly planted trees and shrubs fill in.

I saved seeds from the largest plants so if you want to experiment and want some let me know.

I grow plants for many reasons: to please my eye or to please my soul, to challenge the elements or to challenge my patience, for novelty or for nostalgia, but mostly for the joy in seeing them grow.
David Hobson