When we arrived here just over three years ago the garden was in sad need of some tender care. My first job was to get rid of the many pointless little island beds in the back garden. Then I turned my attention to the front.The garden was bisected by a garden path leading up to the door and on each side was a lawn. This was surrounded by knobbly-kneed roses. R. ‘Iceberg’ is quite pretty but these bushes were well past their ‘Best Before’ date.
In front of the white picket fence there was a pointless strip of lawn too. What on earth is the use of a little bits and strips of front lawn? They had to go. I dug them up. Under the lawn was a whole network of cherry tree roots which were hideously difficult to get rid of. When I had finished I sat down and thought I might possibly die. The American garden writer, Martha Smith describes the feeling in her book; ‘Beds I have known’. There must be so many gardeners who will identify with what she calls ‘Planter’s Paralysis.’ The awful feeling you get when you realise that ‘you will never, ever rise again’ after you have used muscles that you were not aware you had. Not only did I think that I would never be able to garden again but I thought that I would be welded to my chair for ever or else be condemned to crawling around on my hands and knees to the surprise of Pip, the dog who though it was some exciting, new game.
In the place of the strip of lawn in front of the fence I put my collection of irises. Here they can sit and get there rhizomes baked by the sun and don’t have to compete with anything else for light. Unfortunately they have lost their labels as I have dug them up and moved them several times whenever I moved house. Some of them are Cedric Morris irises. The artist, Sir Cedric Morris lived near here and I have friends who gardened with him. Many gardeners round here grow his beautiful, delicate irises. I also have quite a few from the wonderful Cayeux iris nursery in France. These are big brazen ladies in sumptuous colours. I know they lack the elegance of the Cedric Morris ones but I don’t want all my irises to be tasteful. Their colours are absolutely gorgeous. They don’t last long and they need staking as they are so top-heavy but I wouldn’t be without them. Here are some of my beautiful irises decked out in their glorious party dresses.