Bog Blog ...
English weather and irisesWell, hopefully we are coming out of the worst of the weather now ... but I shall be careful about what I say after the last blog!
We have yet to see what effect the weather has had on our plants but generally speaking the beardless irises we grow at Roadford Water Gardens are fairly robust and have survived some pretty harsh conditions over the last few years.
I shall be busy weeding in the next few weeks and giving all the irises a good feed. This will encourage strong growth and flowering in the season to come. I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to seeing colourful blooms. A bit of sunshine wouldn't go amiss either!
7th March 2018
New Season and New IrisesAs I write there is a light dusting of snow on the ground and a few lazy snowflakes drifting through the air. It has on the whole been a fairly mild and very wet winter in Devon though, and plants are showing signs of being early.
So we are getting excited to see which irises will make the grade over the next month or two and get to strut their stuff on the website. There are over 300 varieties of moisture-loving iris at Roadford Water Gardens but only the strongest are displayed for sale each Spring. Watch this space for this year's winners.
7th February 2018
Season's EndAs the season draws to an end, may I thank all my customers for their orders this year and wish everyone a happy and flower-filled garden.
19th July 2017
Iris ensata and water liliesThis is the time of year which rewards as all with lush growth. Sometimes it can be a little overwhelming!
Weeds are now growing apace. So too are the Iris ensatas. They put on a sudden spurt of growth and the flowers can be huge, drawing you to them even amidst the grasses and reeds.
The water lilies have also started to flower. I love the perfection of their symetry. Living in tubs at Roadford water Gardens rather than in a pond out of reach, I really get to appreciate their beauty close up.
20th June 2016
Water IrisPlanting advice for Iris versicolor, Iris laevigata, Iris virginica, Louisiana Iris and Iris pseudacorus:
Cut any damaged leaves or roots cleanly across and place plant in rain or pond water if unable to plant immediately. Most flowering stalks will have already been removed at this point in the season.
I use good quality garden soil as a planting medium. This must be acidic (lime-free) for Iris laevigata. If you are using Aquatic Compost, please add slow-release plant food as irises need plenty of nutrition to thrive and Aquatic Compost is nutrient poor in order to reduce algal bloom. Firm the iris in so that the rhizome is just below the surface.
Water before placing in the pond. This helps prevent the soil from floating off. Alternatively, small stones/grit may be used.
Place the plant so that the top of the soil is only just under the surface, raising the pot if necessary. Once established water iris are easy to look after: cut the leaves off in winter and feed in Spring. They may need dividing every five years or so depending on the variety.
5th June 2017
Much needed rainWell at least we don't have to do any watering!
The great thing about water plants is that once they are planted, they don't need watering at all. Just one more very good ecological reason for adorning your outside space with a water feature and pond plants.
Irises are my favourite and seem to draw the dragonflies from miles around. Water lilies help to keep the water from heating up too much.
Marsh marigolds bring late winter colour to the pond as well as providing an important early source of food for flying insects. Shallow areas of water are enjoyed by the birds too.
17th May 2017
Time for planting!Now Easter is past, Iris pseudacorus, Iris versicolor and Iris virginica are being divided and dispatched. Iris laevigata, Siberian iris and Iris ensata will follow shortly after.
All plants are sent 'bare-root' and on arrival should be unwrapped and placed in a container of pond or rainwater as soon as possible. Plant your iris so that the roots are spread out and the rhizome is just under the surface.
I use good quality garden soil which is on the acidic side and all the irises I sell are happy with this. To flower well, they appreciate a feed in Spring. Slow release aquatic plant food can be used instead of an organic mulch to help avoid the build up of blanket weed.
9th April 2017
Springtime 2017This year I am having to watch where I tread as the newts have been very careless with their egg-laying. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of my chicken and somewhere in the barn will be a great stash of eggs.
I may not be having eggs for tea, but I certainly am enjoying the longer days and all the signs of Spring that greet me as I walk amongst the ponds. The Marsh Marigolds have fat flower buds and the Louisiana iris have fresh new leaves, boldly vertical at this time of year.
Soon the Marsh Marigolds will be in full bloom and the Iris pseudacorus will be putting on vigorous growth. All varieties of both plants are available to buy from March onwards.
24th February 2017
Buying Irises and Pond PlantsThe minature water lilies have continued to flower and delight well into October. They have flowered beautifully this year and enjoyed the high light-levels of summer.
The season for Roadford Water Gardens is however now over.
Please do place your orders for next year though, as first come, first served and some varieties are always limited due to their rarity. If you make your order now, you will be contacted in April/May to confirm the order, ask for payment (at this year's prices) and to let you know when your plants are ready to divide and send.
26th August 2016
A riot of colourCandelabra primula add a tremendous splash of colour. Even singularly planted they pack a good colour punch in relation to their size. En masse, they are stunning and hard to beat.
Try unusual colour combinations in the bog garden such as Primula bulleyana and Primula beesiana together or Primula japonica 'Postford White' with Primula pulverulenta.
Being promiscuous plants that self-seed readily you may find your very own colours of primula turning up as they did at RHS Harlow Carr.
20th June 2016
Surprise!Growing irises could never be boring for me. I have been waiting, waiting, waiting for those fantastic green spears to start growing and this spring has really tested my patience.
But now suddenly within two weeks everything has gone crazy and Roadford Water Gardens has green spears everywhere. We have cast off our woolly hats and thermals and revelled in the warmth.
The thing is, I have been concentrating on iris growth so completely that I was taken totally by surprise by the first flower and how exquisite it is.
And once again,just like that I've fallen in love. Which is why Roadford Water Gardens exists.
12th May 2016
Recent ordersMy apologies to customers waiting for their orders.
This season has been slow to get started. The warm, wet winter has given way to a cold, wet spring and this has delayed division and delivery.
I expect to begin sending out plants in the next couple of weeks and will contact customers before dispatch.
7th April 2016
Limited stock for 2016Roadford Water Gardens is priviledged to have received a large order from RHS Harlow Carr where our irises will be seen by the many visitors enjoying the new planting at the Royal Horticultural Society's wonderful garden.
This is fantastic news as it will show people what a tremendous selection of irises there are to buy for wet soils. It does however impact on the stock that will be available right now as all iris varieties sold through the website are divisions of the parent plant.
If you are disappointed that a particular variety is out of stock this year please consider letting us know your wishes. We may be able to take more divisions than expected later on in the spring and can then get in touch. We will certainly have many more irises to buy next year.
28th February 2016
Feeding bog plantsIn the past, I have suggested feeding bog plants with well-rotted horse manure. It is easy to obtain (in our area) and cheap (sometimes free!). There are however, a couple of caveats that I wish to add to this advice.
The first is that the manure must be well-rotted which usually means that it should be at least a year old and should not smell.
The second is that some plants including Iris ensata and Iris laevigata prefer acid soil. It is possible that manure may change the PH so caution is recommended when feeding acid-loving plants.
19th January 2016
Brave little Iris lazicaAs last year ended on such a soggy note, the pleasure of seeing the Iris lazica flowering was all the greater.
In fact, due to the mild weather, many of the water iris have not yet properly died back for the winter. This makes it hard to predict when the new shoots will emerge.
The Iris laevigata, versicolor and pseudacorus will be ready to divide and send out to their new homes once the shoots are about 10cm which is generally in early April. The Iris ensata are a little later.
But last year the iris were late and this year...who knows!
I'm looking forward to greeting them again whenever they decide to grace us with their presence.
19th January 2016
Season's GreetingsIn March/April we will start to get in touch with all our pre-order customers. This will be as soon as the iris shoots emerge, bringing with those small green spears all the hope and excitement of the new growing year. What a joy!
Please visit our site again in the Spring when we will have new varieties of iris to buy and an few more colourful bog plants to offer.
In the meantime, have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year!
1st December 2015
Too many plants in your garden?Never!
With beautiful upright habit and stunning flowers, there is room for an iris in virtually every garden.
In Devon, we do not have the best conditions for bearded iris. There are however many beardless iris that do very well in our mild, wet weather.
One of the more interesting iris that thrived with us last year and that I hope to sell next spring is Iris 'Holden Clough.' The colouration is truly unique and is hard to describe - 'a purple-brown' does not do the beautiful, orchid-like flowers justice.
It is just one of the many surprising beauties amongst damp-loving iris and I think it rather a special addition to any garden, however full.
19th November 2015
Introducing Widget the Whippet from BroadwoodwidgerAs there is a dearth of irises to show you at this time of year, I would like to introduce you to one of the main characters in the Roadford Water Gardens family.
This is Widget, our four year old whippet, now totally at home amongst the irises. A couple of years ago when visiting Rowden Gardens he was not so savvy and thought that the iris beds looked a little more solid than they were. He took a flying leap (as whippets do) and ended up a much darker colour than he is here, rather bog coloured to be precise. Poor Widget! Whippets don't like water.
17th October 2015
Winter dormancyThe water iris and water lilies are losing vigour now and the shop is closed for the winter months.
It is still possible to pre-order plants for next year. Any orders made now will be sent out from mid-April onwards, depending on growth, weather conditions and temperature. Your order will be confirmed in early April which is when you will be asked for payment. The earlier the order, the more likely it is that your full order will be met!
Thank you so much for your interest.
19th August 2014
Iris that enjoy damp conditionsIris ensata and Iris sibirica are well suited to boggy areas or areas which enjoy high rainfall.
Iris sibirica are extremely easy to grow. As long as they do not dry out completely, they will tolerate shade, sun, wet soils and dry. Their preferred habitat is a sunny spot where the soil remains damp. They do not like sitting in water. Flowering in June, Iris sibirica have a lovely elegant shape and make excellent cutting flowers.
Iris ensata are a little more discerning and will only do really well if they have acid soil. They also resent drying out in Spring and Summer so require a boggy area or a kind gardener who doesn't mind regular watering duties. They do not like sitting in cold water in the Winter months. Their showy blooms appear in late June and early July and can be 20cm across!
14th July 2015
Buying irises for pondsFor your pond, or any shallow body of water:
Iris versicolor are neither invasive nor prima donna-ish about soil type. They have a beautiful elegant shape and come in many shades of blue, pink and purple.
Iris virginica are similar in attributes but their leaves are slightly broader and more relaxed in growth habit.
Iris fulva offer a different colour range including the yellow of Iris fulva 'Marvell Gold' and the brick red of Iris fulva.
Iris laevigata are more discerning about soil type and prefer acidic conditions to do well. They range from pure white to the deepest of blues.
The Iris pseudacorus are reliable growers and can be so successful that they take too much pond space for the smaller water feature, although varieties such as Iris pseudacorus var. Bastardii are less vigorous.
All these irises do well with their roots in water but should not be placed too deep: the tops of the roots generally not deeper than 5cm below the surface of the water. They are accommodating plants though, and have evolved to cope with flooding and times of low rainfall so once established will need very little attention.
7th July 2015
Water Iris Dream HomeThe ultimate Des Res for your average water iris would be:
A deep body of water to regulate water temperature, with a shallow shelf to lounge on,
copious amounts of rich soil (acidic soil for the laevigata iris) and a springtime snack of home made compost or well rotted leaf mould/horse manure,
regular rainfall, a fountain or a stream running though the pond to increase oxygen levels,
admirers to appreciate their beauty.
Whilst not all water irises live in their ideal home, they are actually very easy to grow. However, they do not enjoy fluctuations in water temperature and foliage can yellow or die back in times of adverse conditions. Usually, as soon as conditions are more favourable, left undisturbed they will revive and send out new shoots.
Good quality garden soil is preferable to aquatic compost as aquatic planting mediums are too nutrient poor for healthy iris growth.
UK rainfall is usually sufficient to keep oxygen levels healthy.
21st June 2015
Thank youThank you to everyone who has shown an interest in John and Galen Carter's irises. I have tried to answer every single enquiry and order made over the last 7 weeks (over 2000 emails). Please would anyone who ordered and has not heard from me contact me again if they would still like to go ahead with their order, particularly anyone with a Gmail account, as some emails have repeatedly been returned as spam despite my best efforts.
Thank you also to all the local businesses for supplying me with boxes. And no, I did not drink all that wine, eat all that chocolate and wear all those shoes before I could send my irises to their new homes!
I am so excited by the amount of ponds there must be in the gardens of the UK and how positive that is for our water-loving wildlife. The bees are very busy and happy with the irises in my patch and I can imagine contented bee activity all over Britain - now all we need is the weather to enjoy it!
1st June 2015
GARDENER'S WORLDThe response to the beautiful footage of Rowden Gardens has been phenomenal and it is wonderful that these easy-to-care-for plants are receiving the recognition they deserve. We have however been caught on the hop and it may take a while for us to catch up. Please accept my apologies that responses to your orders will be much slower than I would like. Each and every order will be attended to eventually.
I am currently attending all the orders made on Sunday 12th April.
Thank you for your patience,
11th April 2015
Waiting for take-offReady, steady, go!
The season has started and the first pseudacorus, versicolor, fulva and laevigata irises will be winging their way to their new homes next week. When you buy beardless iris, the rhizomes arrive 'bare root' in a box and should immediately be unwrapped and placed in a bucket or container of rain water to re-hydrate.
Planting for all water iris is straight forward. Basically you firm the roots into soil so that their roots are under the water and their leaves above. Do not place too deep.
The same goes for planting in a basket.
Tip: make sure that you fill the basket to the top and firm soil down. To keep soil from floating off, water the basket before putting it in your pond. A surface layer of horticultural/aquatic grit/gravel can also be used.
7th March 2015
Spring is on its wayThank you to everyone that has pre-ordered irises to be sent out this year. We are absolutely delighted with the interest shown in our plants and hope to fulfil all orders made to date.
However, due to the small (and exclusive!) nature of our nursery, we only have a few remaining of several varieties of irises shown on this website. In order to avoid disappointment, please would anyone thinking of ordering in larger numbers get in touch as soon as possible. All plants are increased by division on site in order to be sure that the plants you order are the plants you receive, so we are limited in the numbers of plants we can produce in any one year.
In the meantime, wishing you Spring sunshine and many happy hours of gardening!
23rd February 2015
Bog PlantsHaving watched the Gardens Revisited programmes on BBC2 which featured both water iris and bog gardens, I thought it might be useful to compile a short list of easy to grow (but not too invasive!) bog plants.
Once you have planted your bog plants, make sure they are kept moist in the spring and summer months. All bog plants appreciate a good feed in the spring. We feed them with well-rotted horse manure. This is placed on the surface around the plants, although not touching the plants themselves.
Plants with architectural foliage:
Rodgersia, hosta, Zantedeschia aethiopica are all tremendous plants and fairly easy to find. Reum, Typha latifolia 'Variegata' and the royal fern, Osmunda regalis, may be harder to source but are definitely on my favourites list.
Astilbe, Iris ensata, Iris siberica, candelabra primula, Caltha palustris, Lobelia cardinalis, Trollius to name a few!
Plants for a more naturalistic planting scheme:
Lychnis flos-cuculi (ragged robin), Pontederia cordata (pickerel weed), Ranunculus flammula (creeping spearwort).
Water mint, Filipendula ulmaria (meadow sweet) and Lythrum salicaria (purple loosestrife) are all lovely but can be invasive if left unchecked.
24th January 2015
Happy New Year!New year, new plants!
This year the nursery is introducing iris siberica, candelabra primula and marsh marigolds to the current collection of moisture-loving plants.
White to gold, sky-blue to magenta: together with the water irises and miniature water lilies we specialise in, the colour combinations you create in your water garden will be as varied and exciting as your imagination.
To get your creative juices flowing, here's a bog garden I created a couple of years ago.
9th January 2015
Seasons endCongratulations to Rosemary Fraser for winning the Roadford Water Gardens voucher at the Bridestowe Garden Show! I hope that you will have fun choosing your prize.
As August approaches, we will not be sending out any more irises until Spring, so a big thank you to all my customers for helping Roadford Water Gardens off to a wonderful start! I would also like to extend particular thanks to John and Galen Carter who have been extremely supportive and given up so much of their time to help me.
I look forward to next season and hope that you will visit again when you are looking for moisture-loving irises for sale. They are fabulous plants aren't they?
28th July 2014
Open days and ensatasThrough June, there was the opportunity to visit Rowden Gardens and see the National Collection of water iris in flower, where mauve, white, blue, purple and yellow irises flower together and look stunning.
The last of the damp-loving irises to flower are the ensatas. Ensata are show stoppers and really add the wow factor to a garden. They bloom a couple of weeks after the versicolor irises, extending the iris flowering season into mid summer.
They require acid soil but are happy in pots, as long as they have plenty of water through the growing season. A dish placed under the pot and kept topped up with water would be fine. Plant in ericaceous compost with liberal quantities of well-rotted manure as, like all irises, they are greedy feeders. You should be rewarded with one of the most stunning plants you can grow.
19th June 2014
Bewitching water lilies.There's something about water lilies that makes me think of boating on lazy summer rivers. Somehow these plants embody a quality of serenity and stillness. Not everyone has a slow-moving river at the bottom of their garden, but even as mature plants, miniature water lilies can be grown in a container.
This means that anyone with outside space can have their very own water lily with its enchanting floating leaves and flowers. Nymphaea like rain-water and sun, but otherwise are unfussy and completely charming. I always fancied a golden bowl for mine!
25th May 2014
Wildlife PondsWith the days getting longer, many of us are able to get outside in the evenings - listening to the birds, enjoying the last of the setting sun - lovely!
Ponds are fantastic for birds and wildlife. If you are thinking of putting in a water feature, you may be considering using native plants. The yellow flag (Pseudacorus) lives naturally in wetland areas in the UK but can be invasive and will come to dominate a small pond.
Why not choose a less vigorous iris? The birds and insects will not notice the difference and you will be able to listen to happy birds, whilst enjoying the gorgeous iris of your choice lit up by the setting sun. Even better!
23rd April 2014
Easter bunnies and irisesAs Easter approaches, we are bombarded with images of eggs, chicks and fluffy bunny rabbits. But bunnies, cute as they may be, do not combine well with horticulture.
The good news is: rabbits do not eat water iris. In fact, irises are remarkably pest free plants. They are easy to grow and beautifully statuesque, whether you have rabbits or not.
Mr McGregor would have been much happier if he had grown iris fulva instead of lettuces and iris ensata instead of onions.
Have a happy Easter!
6th April 2014
Frogspawn and Daffodil TimeAs the first daffodils bring hope of sunshine to our soggy isle, I have been thinking of things that seem to have thrived during our watery winter.
Snowdrops are happily flowering regardless and frogs ... well! they have put frogspawn in every puddle at Roadford Water Gardens (and there are a lot of puddles). Frogspawn bulges around the irises and yesterday I saw the first tiny tadpoles resting amongst those still encased before swimming into the wider pond and their new life.
The beautiful Mountain Brook iris is also showing new spring growth. The emerging leaf spears are tinged purple. Roll on Spring and colour and lots of irises because they have LOVED our mild, wet winter!
7th March 2014
Water, water every where ...The year after we bought Higher Goodacre Farm was so soggy that the marsh reeds were the only living things that were happy - so marsh-loving plants seemed to be the natural thing to grow here.
However, we then went into 2013 and a drought ensued. To be safe we dug some trenches to keep our plantsí feet in water and feeling at home.
Then the rain started falling ... and didnít stop. The trenches filled and overflowed and threatened to collapse inwards on top of the irises. We had to dig channels through the banks of soil we had cleared to stop the pressure building up and the banks giving way. Who would have thought I would ever long for those brambles back and couch grass and nettles and docks Ė anything to keep the topsoil from ending up at the bottom of the lake.
10th January 2014