Iris’s Garden

by Christine Breen

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…