In August 2019 Irene and I were invited to a family event near Lincoln, this provided the perfect opportunity to visit a garden that has long been on my wish list ever since reading about their technique for growing Bearded Iris. Sadly when we visited the iris were over, however, as with all good gardens, there was much else to admire. We have many bearded Iris in the garden, several inherited from my Mother and Great Aunts’ gardens. Bearded iris have beautiful delicate, often fleeting flowers, due to our weather, which can make them even more precious.
Bearded Iris has fallen out of favour due largely to the traditional way of caring for them, with the need to lift and thin them, in the autumn, every three to four years. The “Doddington system” is a trouble-free way to divide them, requiring minimum attention. Some of their older iris have been in the same beds for over 30 years.
Their system is based on the fact that bearded iris set their flower initials in August and require the rhizomes to be warmed by the summer sun.
The iris are split every year after flowering in June, just as the new leaves start to grow. The iris are not lifted but split with a spade, leaving the healthy young rhizome with shoots, whilst removing the old rhizome. the aim is to leave 9-12″ between plants. Then you remove the early summer leaves and flower stems leaving the new late summer leaves. They topdress the bed with bone meal, I use rose fertiliser because foxes are attracted to bone meal. Large rhizomes can be divide with the spade with one part lifted to transplant, either to fill a gap, expand the bed or pot up to sell on open garden days.
I have been using this system since 2014, I was initially attracted because it entailed much less bending, having had a back problem for some years.
Bearded iris in Our Garden@19
Another interesting fact with Doddington is they contain the Bryan Dodsworth iris collection. He was the most celebrated C20 British breeder of Tall Bearded Iris and was awarded the Dykes Medal for new varieties 12 times.
This garden description is from their website:Doddington Hall.com
“For many, the Gardens at Doddington are just as spectacular as the Hall itself. Remaining faithful to the original Elizabethan layout, mellow walls provide the framework for the formal East Front and West Gardens. Beyond the West Gardens begin the lovingly restored Wild Gardens. Over the generations, most recently by Antony and Victoria Jarvis and Claire and James Birch, the gardens at Doddington have been restored, cared for, nurtured and developed to their fullest potential.
THE EAST FRONT
The point at which the dramatic nature of the architecture of the Hall becomes apparent. A regular pattern of box edging and topiary follows the outer original Elizabethan walls, leaving the central view of the Hall from the Gate House uninterrupted. Standing guard in the forecourt are four topiary unicorns, representing the Jarvis family crest.
THE WEST GARDEN
Reorganised in 1900 with the help of experts from Kew, the West Garden is a riot of colour from April through to September. Wide borders filled with botanical surprises such as the naturalised Crown Imperials, elegant Edwardian Daffodils and a Handkerchief Tree frame a tapestry of box-edged parterres bursting with glorious Bearded Irises in late May/early June.
THE WILD GARDEN
A spectacular pageant of spring bulbs begins in early February with swathes of snowdrops and Crocus tommasinianus, continuing through March and early April with drifts of Lent Lilies and our unique collection of heritage daffodils, winter aconites and snake head fritillaries until May when our famous Irises steal the show in the West Garden. There are also winter-flowering and scented shrubs, Rhododendron, and an underlying structure is given by topiary and some wonderful trees – the ancient, contorted Sweet Chestnuts that overlook the croquet lawn are still productive.
Meandering paths lead you to our Temple of the Winds built by Antony Jarvis in memory of his parents, a turf maze that he made in the 1980s, and if you look hard you may find the ‘dinosaur’s egg’ (a large boulder that he put in the branches of a field maple tree to surprise the grandchildren).
A nature trail starting from just beyond the Temple at the end of the Garden follows a circular route back to the ‘ha ha’ at the end of the Yew avenue and provides a pleasant and interesting walk of about a mile. The route passes through woodlands, open parkland and a wetland meadow from where the clay was dug to make the bricks to build Doddington.
THE KITCHEN GARDEN
Thanks to a grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the formerly neglected two-acre Walled Kitchen Garden was restored to its former glory in 2007. Just a stone’s throw from the Hall it now provides an abundance of fruit, vegetables, salads and herbs which take centre stage on the Café and Restaurant menus and are regularly for sale in our Farm Shop.
By implementing organic techniques including crop rotation, minimum tillage, biological controls, the use of green manures as well as no-dig beds, we are able to naturally maximise productivity and minimise pests so we have no need for chemical fertilisers, weed killers or pesticides.”
A photo garden tour.
A great name for an Iris!
If you have an opportunity I would recommend a visit to Doddington Hall, besides the hall and gardens, they have a cafe, restaurant, farm shop and several other shopping outlets, you can even get married there.