My gorgeous bearded irises - all blues, lilacs and a sumptuous black (last pic) - are from specialist nurseries (probably Tempo Two) while a few pure white ones came from my sister.
But why do I have one or two dull purple ones with touches of brown, like those I remember in my childhood home? Did Mum give me this one? I'm afraid there's no room for sentiment: these will be pulled out (along with a dull yellow iris and a brown, yes brown, iris). Besides, I think they came from my sister, and were thought to be white ones (oops).
Similarly, many of my daffodils are (more) recent acquisitions in sulphurs and whites - and not so many of the gold `King Alfred' style.
There's one exception, and I'm loving it.
Once Dad sold the house, he (finally!) let us take a little of the bulbs and perennials in Mum's garden. (It was autumn so I now have a few nerines, one of the autumn-flowering bulbs that don't do well here. How I yearn for some of Mum's snowdrops (Galanthus)!)
One of the best plants I dug up (but replanted most) was good old Gladiolus `The Bride' (above) which I've loved since the 1980's, when it was fashionable. It remains my favourite among the `cottage gladioli', those sweet flowers only one step away from the species, shorter with smaller flowers than the Dame Edna type, all in perfect proportion.
(Gladiolus carneus, blushing bride gladiolus, is in naturalistic clumps in the silver-and-raspberry bed, flowering profusely amidst the pink perennials and silver Artemisia's. Maybe this is bulb easier to grow?)
Mum had a story about her petite gladioli. She'd started to plant the garden before house building commenced, and one of the builders asked her: What was that attractive plant? `That's a species gladiolus [close to it, anyhow!] before they started breeding and improving them [into the large Dame Edna-type hybrids].' Wonderingly, he replied: `Why did they ever bother?' Yes indeed-y. (Cue clashing cymbals.)
But then she and I always liked small flowers.
Gladiolus `The Bride' isn't petite, to be honest, but significantly smaller than Dame Edna's favourite flower; they are certainly large enough for panache, especially in my large clumps.
Gladiolus x colvillei `The Bride' was a wonderful hybrid that arose by accident in 1871; long enough ago that I'm calling it an antique flower. It's still close to its South African forebears; it's like a granddaughter that's married into the aristocracy. (Gladiolus x colvillei was bred in 1823 or earlier, in the UK, from South African species G. tristus and G. cardinalis. While gorgeous (petite lemon flowers on upright stems), G. tristus can be weedy in Victoria and Tasmania. Aren't all the best bulbs a bit weedy? (Don't start me on that horrendous bulb, often for sale, Nectaroscordum. It's a monster! Don't plant it! - you have been warned.) OK, not Onion Weed (Allium triquetrum); no one (sane) could want to plant this smelly, well-named thug.)
This spring `The Bride' gladioli have opened myriad milky blooms; they are not too tall; and like the best plantings, there's 3 clumps near each other with other sweet plants around them, to give year-round flowers. Maybe they are doing well because they were large corms compared with ones I've bought in the past.
And it reminds me of Mum - and her last garden.
Jill Weatherhead is horticulturist, writer, garden designer and principal at Jill Weatherhead Garden Design who lives in the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne, and works throughout Victoria. (www.jillweatherheadgardendesign.com.au)