Lambley Gardens & Nursery, 395 Lesters Road,  Ascot,  Victoria 3364
Phone +61 (03) 5343 4303,  Fax +61 (03) 5343 4257

In My Garden

Drift of Iris reticulata ‘Harmony’. Two years ago I planted about a hundred bulbs of Iris reticulata ‘Harmony’ in what I now call the thyme lawn. This week, the first week in August, I counted more than three hundred and fifty flowers  out. Iris ‘Harmony’ flowers earlier than others of its kind by about a week. The pale sky blue ‘Alida’ and the rich purple ‘J.S. Dijt’ are only just opening their flowers.

Iris reticulata has a widespread distribution in the wild, ranging from Armenia, Georgia, Eastern Turkey, North East Iraq and North West Iran.  Rocky slopes and lightly grassed hillsides from six hundred metres up to two thousand seven hundred metres are preferred habitats.

Thirty or forty years ago I used to grow them in pots but with very little success. They flowered well the first year but then went into decline. If I was to grow them in pots again I’d plant new bulbs every year.

Iris reticulata ‘Harmony’ Iris reticulata ‘Harmony’ in frost. Iris reticulata ‘Alida’

Our climate suits them very well and in the garden they are very easily grown if their few wants are satisfied. I prepare the soil well, mixing in a fair amount of compost and adding a fair amount of lime. Our soil is very acid and Iris reticulata is much happier in near neutral soils. The bulbs are planted five or six centimetres below soil level and a three centimetre layer of composted pine bark is laid on top.

I don’t like bare garden beds during summer and as the Iris is completely dormant by Christmas I’ve planted the evergreen Thymus longicaulis which makes a low carpet. This thyme needs very little supplementary watering in fact I watered it just once last summer. The Iris needs a long dry period during summer to set flowers for the following winter and if it is kept too wet during the warmer months the bulbs can or rather will rot.  More traditional carpeting thymes burn off in the centre during our hot summers and also need too much extra irrigation.

Crocus etruscus grows in deciduous woodland in Tuscany. I grow a commercial Dutch clone called ‘Zwanenburg’ which is an excellent doer with soft lilac-mauve flowers. It flowers at the same time as Iris ‘Harmony’ and they are beautiful together. Crocus etruscus can cope with a fair bit of summer irrigation but is happy without any too.

Crocus etruscus 'Zwanenburg' Crocus etruscus 'Zwanenburg' Crocus etruscus

The incredibly beautiful Crocus sieberi var tricolor is flowering now in the same area in the garden. It’s found wild high up in the mountains of the Northern Peloponnese, particularly on Mt Chelmos and Mt Ziria, but grows happily here. It will take more summer watering than the Iris but is content enough without. It is one of the most striking of all the winter flowering crocus with a definite white band separating the rich purple flower from the deep yellow throat. Astonishing.

Crocus sieberi var. tricolor Crocus sieberi var. tricolor Crocus sieberi var. tricolor

Marcus Ryan awarded a Churchill Fellowship

Marcus Ryan and Governor of Victoria.

Many customers of Lambley Nursery would have had dealings with Marcus over the years. He started work here twelve years ago and now is an integral part of the management here. Marcus as many of you know is enthusiastic, hard working and knowledgeable.  He applied for a Churchill Fellowship earlier this year and last week was presented with the award by the Governor of Victoria. There were only eighteen Fellowships awarded in Victoria this year.

Marcus will be visiting dry climate gardens in the UK notably Beth Chatto’s garden, the bulb fields of the Netherlands talking to bulb growers and exporters, Olivier Filippi’s nursery in southern France and gardens and nurseries specialising in dry climate plants in Portugal, Spain, France, Greece and Cyprus. He will be meeting with more than thirty gardeners and nurserymen working in the field of dry climate gardening. The Fellowship will cover all the costs.

The Churchill Trust was established in 1965 to honour the memory of Sir Winston Churchill by awarding overseas research Fellowships known as 'Churchill Fellowships'.

Since its inception The Churchill Trust has awarded Churchill Fellowships to over 3,400 Australians who, like Churchill, are innovative, filled with a spirit of determination and possess a strong desire to benefit their community.

All of us at Lambley are very proud of Marcus and know that Australian gardeners will benefit enormously from his explorations.

Olivier Filippi's Dry Gardening Handbook. Olivier Filippi's Dry Garden, Mèze, France. Olivier Filippi's Dry Garden, Mèze, France.