Iris Bowen

Garden Blogger/Fictional Character

Helleborus Hardly Ever Boring


Helleborus Hardly Ever Boring


Borage and hellebore fill two scenes,
Sovereign plants to purge the veins
Of melancholy, and cheer the heart
Of those black fumes which make it smart.

-Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy


Cheerful as the buttercup, another of the Ranunculacea family to which Helleborus belongs, Hellebores in the garden make me wonder why I don’t have more of them. Not buttercups! That would be mad. Speaking of madness Hellebores were thought to cure madness and counteract witchcraft. Planted by the front door it was said they could ward off evil.

They bloom outside of the natural rhythm of things, blooming in the winter. Perfect individuals! Non-conformists. Not boring at all.



Out and In the Garden

Primroses in Kiltumper by CBWilliams

There comes a time when balance returns.
The light outside becomes insistent.
The landscape awakens, its urging unquenchable.

Outside under the wooden canopy on the table the unplanted primroses anticipate the gardener who is still inside watching the winter rain easing.

They are looking at each other… she and the bird that has been knocking on the window, and the primroses wait.

“Come out into the garden green with spring…”

Marching into April

Silage Bales by CBWilliams

Marching into April
Toora ta loo rye aye.

Beneath the out of season hot blue sky
silage bales sweat, yet sweetly, in their plastic wraps.
Golden gorse scents the air with coconut.
And sheltered in the ivied stone wall
viola odorata and oxalis bloom.

Blackthorn spins its white lace-like blossoms.

While woodbine, downy-leafed twins with everything.

Toora ta loo rye aye

April comes…

Green is the Colour of Spring

As one of the great Irish singer/songwriter sings….

Green is Spring by CBWilliams

“…It’s not easy being green
But green’s the color of spring
And green can be cool and friendly like
And green can be big like an ocean
Or important like a mountain or tall like a tree
When green is all there is to be
It could make you wonder why
But, why wonder, why wonder?
I’m green and it’ll do fine
It’s beautiful and I think it’s what I want to be…”

The lyrics come from a fellow named Joe Raposo…but the version Iris likes comes from Van Morrison ‘It’s not Easy Bein’ Green’ on Hard Nose The Highway

Kamikaze Yellow Bird

Kamikaze yellow bird is pecking at the glass, again.

Kamikaze Yellow Bird CBWilliams

For days now he (for it must be a he) has not given up.  He continues to fly, crash, peck and tap at the window. Sometimes he sits on the out-door handle. Sometimes he sits on the skylight. He seems a harbinger – but what message does he bring?  The tiny smudges on the glass reveal just how intent is the yellow bird. Marks on the window are joining up like a Morse code, but obscuring instead of revealing. Perhaps Windex would deter him.

But never mind, I add his tapping rhythm to the sounds of Spring, to the hum and buzz gathering in the wet Spring air in my back garden.

I am reminded to feed him…

Love Day

Along the road honeysuckle twins
with ivy.
Birdsong married them today.

Chaucer wrote:
For this was on seynt Volantynys day

Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.

Iris returned from a walk and found flowers waiting in the cabin on the wooden table beside the birdseed and the garden tools.  With a card…

Will you be my Valentine?

Iris’s Garden

Here’s Iris Bowen writing about and looking at her garden…

Iris's Garden by CBWilliams

… at its high hedges. Its overgrown lawn. The algae-tinted patio with its myriad planters and containers. At the wild garden she had been cultivating for twenty five years in the middle of the west Clare countryside – the last two on her own. Cultivating wilderness, that’s what she was doing. And sometimes it seemed like madness. Beyond her garden the land was boggy and rush-laden – rushes tall as hazel rods – and full of clay. But inside the fushia hedges, she’d transformed the sticky soil to one that was like loam.

She’d given part of her soul to it.

Adding seaweed gathered off the rocks at Doughmore. Adding leaf mold from the sycamore trees. Adding compost and manure until the blue gley soil turned a rich black and yielded exotics like the Californian tree poppy and Aloe polyphylla. There were three perennial borders and a rose bed that Luke had planted. A box knot garden. All of it sloped down southwards to seek the thin capricious sun that shone in west Clare.

She’d known that garden in all seasons, become acquainted from that April day in 1991 when she and Luke arrived and at first it seemed the brambles owned it…

Whose Woods?

Whose Woods? by CBWilliams



Whose woods are these where granite glints in white winter light? And whose sugar maples and birch and white oak reflect in mirror-like water?

A Moon Rose

Moon Rise CBWilliams



We went for a walk, my daughter and I.
It was cold in the blue twilight.
It froze our words.
and the snow turned to black ice.

But, a moon rose…
and the gate was open.

Garden Wet with Rain

Mt Fuji 'Shirotae' by CBWilliams

In the garden wet with rain Mt Fuji ‘Shirotae’ hangs onto her yellowing frock in mid December, despite the wind, despite the rain. She’s got grace, she’s got style. She’s my kind of tree, with her knobbly twigs and canker sores. In May she delights with her white blossoms that skirt the blooming earth like the dresses in Monet’s ‘Femmes au jardin’. Seven months later she’s beyond stoic. She’s the Helen of Troy of my garden.

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