Iris Bowen

Garden Blogger

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.

Face Through the Trees

Berry Face by CBWilliams



There are two kinds of people in the world: those who see the berry face and those who don’t.

Like a Wolf Kahn Painting

Like a Wolf Kahn

Colours of sunlight in motion…
are an autumn bank of sycamores (think rose-coloured trees in a Wolf Kahn painting)
Electric on a rippled sea of neon grass while
the duck-egg/cloud-packed sky
hangs lowly, softly…

The Presence of Light

Hawthorn Berries by ahisgett

In the season of early November the presence of light is so intense you could touch it. Nature still glows with colour – the red berries of the hawthorn are a thousand beads brocaded onto a coat of branches. The sloe berries, tempting as fat blueberries, sprout along the razor-straight and thorny blackthorn hedgerows in the wild landscape, and fushia, a bit foolish but still pretty in pink, dangles its petals like jewels belying the season that’s upon us.

As a gardener I have trained myself to see beyond the dazzle of summer blossoms into the cycle of the seasons themselves.

Each crops its own magic.

In the Garden Wet with Rain

Watching the leaves fall in the garden wet with rain, Rudbeckia and Sedum,  Nasturtiums and Anenome Japonica are the lonely.

Delphiniums have been fooled into thinking they can bloom again. Will they beat the first frost?

Peacocks on Sedum Spectabile Brilliant

October comes to a wet and windy close.The first hail stones batter upon the open hearth and ricochet across the floor.

Is it true that the wealth of sloe berries and hawberries along the boreen means a long winter ahead?

At least the birds will have plenty to eat, I think.

There is a sense of hunkering down for those of us living in the landscape. A blanket of quiet descends. Country living teaches you things. It teaches you about darkness and stars, about silence and sunlight, it teaches you that the berries and the birds winter with you.

You are not alone.

Blue is the Colour of Hope

Blue ~ the Colour of Hope

…gliding and humming, thinking of riffs and runs, swing and syncopation but in the background, playing like a thumb-line, is how can I convey that blue in all its splendid dynamism is the colour of hope…

Where’s Huckleberry

Cicero looking for Huckleberry in Iris' Garden



In the garden shadowy with cloud-light, Cicero watches for the return of Huckleberry, the golden retriever, whose retrieving days are gone.

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