A Garden of Memories Brimming With Irises and Clematis

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Last week we talked about Turning Unused Space Behind The Garage Into a Garden. In that post I talked about how the irises in my garden are very special to me because they came from my mother-in-law (who passed last year). My mother wasn’t into gardening so all I’ve learned about the subject I’ve learned from my mother-in-law (or books). She is also the reason I love birds and bird watching too. Those were things that her and I bonded over and they will always be special to me.

Today I want to talk about what I’ve dubbed my ‘garden of memories’. This area is located on the side of our garage and is where I originally planted all the iris bulbs that she gave me back in 2002. Over the years, I have scattered them throughout our other garden areas and should we ever sell our house, I will be pulling some up to take with me.

As I learned more and more about gardening I’ve realized iris bulbs spread and when they are in their perfect environment they really thrive. When my mother-in-law gave me iris bulbs she just pulled bunches of them from her own garden which were a mix of colors that included solid purple, purple/white and a light brown. I had visions of a purple iris garden but would never tell her that for fear of sounding disrespectful of her gratuity (because I was very grateful!). So over the years I have filtered out the light brown colored ones and relocated those into an area in the backyard.

The first year my irises bloomed, they may have been sparse, but we received so many compliments on them. But, by the 2nd bloom year we started to experience issues with that garden space. We found we couldn’t keep enough dirt on top of them to keep them secure in the ground. That area of the yard slopes down towards the neighbors house and no matter what we added, it would just wash away when it rained.

So one challenge we faced was this loss of soil which caused the blooms to fall forward and all their beauty was lost in the lawn. Then when my husband mowed the lawn some of the blooms would take a hit because they were not standing upright. The other challenge of not having layers of soil (to hold the bulbs in place) was that the bulbs started coming in crooked and many bulbs were exposed to the elements.

Sometime around 2008 or so we decided to have a small retaining wall built around this garden area to contain the irises and allow us to better care for them. This also was the first step towards creating the purple iris garden that I’ve always imagined. I’d say it took about 4 years or so to fully weed out all the non-purple bulbs. Then I took to the task of separating the two different purple iris varieties into their own bundle of blooms. This was all possible because of some gifted bulbs and a small retaining wall.

Reasons To Build A Garden Wall

  • It’ll keep your yard from washing away (like ours).
  • It prevents property damage (in the case of a mudslide).
  • It provides a lovely focal point for an area you are trying to highlight it.

So while having a garden wall or retaining wall offers these incentives, don’t try to build one yourself. Always check with a licensed landscaper first. The landscaper will obtain the proper certificates (if any are needed) before starting the project. They will also adhere to any zoning requirements. We went with a landscaper and are quite pleased with the result, plus that wall ain’t going anywhere any time soon.

Once the garden wall was built we added some much needed soil and mulch for the irises and also planted 3 separate bundles of climbing clematis against white trellises. The goal of the clematis was to cover up some of the large empty garage wall and those ugly house meters. The white trellises lasted approximately 2-3 years but then slowly started breaking down under all the weather conditions they are exposed to on a daily basis. So my husband, being the amazing man he is, picked up three black metal trellises that fit the space and look of the iris garden perfectly.

As you can see from the photo comparison above if you plant something just give it some time (and love), it’ll blossom. From the time we planted these clematis it took just four short years for them to be beautiful, lush vines of purple blossoms. Every year I will train the vines to travel upward and for those stragglers that don’t go in that direction I just loosely tie them to the trellis or weave them around the other upward growing vines.

Purple Clematis In My Garden

  • 2-Tie Dye Clematis (anchor each end of this garden area)
  • 1-Etoile Violette Clematis (placed in the middle)

Once these clematis plants took to the space, I’ve seen these trellises leaning forward under the weight of these happy blooms. It goes without saying these plants love the space they are in and I don’t have plans to change that any time soon. It’s also an added bonus that they pair well with the purple irises.

These bearded irises are gorgeous, wouldn’t you agree?! I just love the two-tone color of these mariposa skies variety. Once I was able to get both purple iris varieties separated it took a few years for them to begin to spread and become lush bundles of beautiful blooms. I’d guess that I haven’t had to touch this iris garden since about 2012-2013 other than to maintain it.

I’m no iris expert but these look like a purple German beaded iris variety. The other big benefit of irises besides their beauty, fragrance and delicate elegance is they are very hardy -or at least that has been my experience. At one time, I actually pulled ALL of the iris bulbs out of this garden area and put them in our back yard near an old tree.

Although I can’t remember now what my “big” plan was, as soon as I finished the task of pulling them out, I regretted it 100%. After having pulled them out they had sat in the wheel barrel for a few days before going back into the ground. Yet they came back the next year and have ever since. Thankfully.

In my mother nature loving opinion one of the 2nd biggest benefits of having beautiful, lush gardens are all the garden visitors we get. I love seeing, tracking and journaling all the butterflies, dragonflies, birds, chipmunks, and more that visit our gardens. Shown above is a twelve-spotted skimmer dragonfly visiting in the iris garden. Their wings are simply beautiful, almost like clear glass windows, with part of their wings being see-through. She or he stayed for a while and then went about its’ way.

We even had hummingbird hawkmoths visit our garden. Have you heard of them before? At first I didn’t know what to think when I first saw one in the garden and was almost afraid of it. If you haven’t seen a hummingbird hawkmoth yet, be sure to come back next week in this garden blog series of What’s In My Garden.

This small garden bed of irises began from flowers given to me by my mother-in-law and I’ve nurtured this garden ever since then. Even the clematis plants were inspired by our wonderful neighbors who had beautiful gardens that I aspired to have one day. Those neighbors no longer live next door and we miss them greatly. But, these clematis will always remind me of them.

Today, this garden has become a beautiful tribute memorial garden to my mother-in-law that will transcend the generations and I couldn’t be more proud of it. While writing this post I thought about getting a nice memorial stone to place in this garden. That would be a nice addition wouldn’t it?!

Now that we finished talking about a garden of memories brimming with irises and clematis come back next week when I’ll share with you planting for visitors a butterfly garden tour.

If you are inspired to create an iris garden or a memorial garden don’t forget to share by tagging me on Instagram and using #btdinspired, I’d love to see your work (and I just might repost your photo)!

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