Irises for the return home

I’ve planted gardens at each house we’ve lived in. Sometimes just a few herbs, but at other times, I’ve planted large gardens. Some plants have shifted between gardens with me: I’ve taken cuttings of roses and transplanted clumps of wedgewood blue tradescantia and old fashioned granny bonnets and a garnet penstemon from one place to the next, and then on again. Mostly, I’ve moved irises, old fashioned flag irises that I first got from my mother-in-law.

We first moved to Australia for for me to write my thesis. Alas, I could not bring my beloved plants with me, so this time I took clumps of irises and penstemon to my mother’s garden, and she looked after them for me. I didn’t need to take rose cuttings or granny bonnets: they came to me from Mum in the first place. Irises and penstemon have the happy habit of spreading, so when we moved back to New Zealand, around the turn of the century, Mum brought some of the plants back to me, and kept some in her garden. I acquired a few irises from the house we owned for a time in a village near Greenhills University, and carried them on to our next homes. And when we came back across the Tasman to Australia for a second time, some irises went back to her again. One is very precious: it blooms in mid-winter, and it is the most glorious combination of brown and gold. It is flowering in Mum’s garden right now.

Brown iris, in full bloom, with golden stamens.  The petals are dark brown at the edges, and a softer, reddy brown in the middle.

(Description: Brown iris, in full bloom, with golden stamens. The petals are dark brown at the edges, and a softer, reddy brown in the middle.)

When we find a new home, and a new garden, when we return to New Zealand at the end of the year, Mum will bring this lovely iris back to me. With a bit of luck, there will be several tubers, so we can each have it in our gardens, blooming in the grey days of winter.

And bless her! She’s potting up herbs for me – rosemary, sweet marjoram, garlic chives, and alpine strawberries so far, with more to come.


12 responses to “Irises for the return home

  1. How lovely!. My grandfather was a breeder of dahlias and name one after my mother. I carried around the tubers for years for my gardens but lost it when I moved South and its no longer commercially available 😦

  2. That’s so cool, I hope to see your irises one day.

  3. Irises are my favourite flowers! I’ve never seen brown ones before, that’s stunning.

  4. seriously… green hills? again? wtf?

  5. Well, yes. They’re very keen on Mr Strange Land… so am I, for that matter. And we prefer Greenhills to the other places that were on offer, for reasons both professional and personal.

    They also seem to be quite keen on me, and have offered me work in an area not unconnected with the work I was previously doing in New Zealand. I can see some interesting pedagogical challenges, and some fascinating connections with my other areas of expertise. I’m quite excited about it.

  6. well, well. you have come full circle my padawan.


    you might need a post on that bill murray film.

    and! congrats to mr SL.

  7. You’ll be back in time for the pbrf.

  8. And now I want a garnet penstemon.

  9. I do miss cold climate garden plants so much. The kind of garden you can have near Greenhills is just impossible here. I have to get my fill when I visit NZ (especially my daughter’s wonderful garden near Greenhills), and look forward to the time I can visit yours near Greenhills too.

  10. Mum says that Dad has been pruning the penstemon. But she’s confident that at least some of it has survived, so she will be digging up a clump for me. And perhaps in a year or two, I can bring a clump down for you.

  11. I know… lucky me. Mr Strange Land will be fine, but I’m going to be very marginal, given my exceedingly spotty academic non-career. Oh well…

  12. I promise tea and cakes and garden.