Rewards of Patience.

Contributor: Leonie Twentyman Jones

Many gardeners today have become impatient. They prefer having an instant garden made for them and are no longer prepared to wait and watch trees and shrubs grow slowly enjoying the different stages of each one’s growth. While this may possibly be understandable for those who are still working and raising families, it is puzzling for those who have retired and could enjoy a more leisurely approach to gardening.

Many of you are sure to have gardening stories which eventually bring reward to those who wait patiently. But one that started with the purchase of two bearded iris rhizomes at an iris show in Johannesburg 40 years ago deserves mention. The plants were brought down to the Cape and while they flourished and produced offspring in a George garden the offspring battled in a Cape Town garden with only occasional appearances of the stunning purple and white flower called ‘Snow Cloud’. Later generations of these two rhizomes were then brought to Leisure Isle and carefully tried in different areas of the garden in the ground, as well as in pots, with limited success. Friends tried them in their gardens also with varying success. Again it was only ever ‘Snow Cloud’ that produced the occasional bloom and the fact that there was another different coloured iris was forgotten.

Gardening books and websites assure you that bearded irises are easy to grow being generally healthy and trouble-free. They grow best in sunny areas with rich soil which has plenty of organic matter.  The plants should be divided up a month or so after they have flowered. Unearth the rhizomes, discarding those that have already flowered and cut back to segments with a fan of leaves and some roots attached. Replant them with the top of the rhizomes slightly exposed. Year after year these instructions were followed with very few results. The leaves looked healthy, but where were the flowers?

Snow Cloud – Photo: Margaret Richards

Then in this last extremely hot and dry December, a clump of irises in a north-facing bed suddenly started producing an abundance of beautiful flowers. But they were not the expected purple and white ‘Snow Cloud’. Instead they were gorgeous gingery-orange blooms with a deep orange ‘beard’. At last the descendants of the ‘other’ rhizome, long forgotten, had flowered. We have no record of the original name given to the plant, so after an internet search the closest possibility was one now called ‘Orange Harvest’. However, if any iris expert recognises it, please let me know.

Ginger irises – Photo: Margaret Richards