Thursday, May 31, 2012

Swan Lake Iris Gardens

There's something elegant about black swans. I associate them with Dawlish, the English town that serves as the fictional birthplace of Charles Dickens' character Nicholas Nickleby and with castle lakes in Germany. Black swans also reside on the premises of Sumter's Swan Lake, as do members of the other seven swan species, including the trumpet swan whose music carries magic across the water.

Copyright 2012 Frances J. Pearce
Camouflaged turtle (at top) swims toward pair of black swans

My visit to Swan Lake Iris Gardens in Sumter, South Carolina last week coincided with the town's annual Iris Festival. The festival features the Japanese iris which arrived at the lake in the first half of the twentieth century as horticultural "trash."  

I've long been an admirer of the bearded irises which thrived in my mother's garden. Dutch irises do well in my cottage garden and, just last month, I helped transplant yellow flag irises on the Balmacara Estate in the Western Highlands of Scotland.

But Japanese irises? I'd heard of them, but until last Friday I'd not experienced them, at least not in bloom. Not even during visits to Japan.

Copyright 2012 Frances J. Pearce

The gorgeous blossoms I saw in Sumter made me wish my garden would support these sun and water loving plants. I decided to take a chance. At the Master Gardener's tent I bought a plastic pot of  Japanese irises of the "Frilled Enchantment" variety. Neither these nor any of the other irises offered for sale were blooming. The lady who assisted me with my purchase explained that the mild winter seems to have affected the irises, decreasing the occurrence of blossoms. She suggested I buy a child's swimming pool to plant my Japanese iris in, but as of today, my "Frilled Enchantment" is directly in the ground in a low-lying area of my front yard. I hope to keep the soil there moist enough that a swimming pool won't be needed. And I hope I have more success with these beauties than I do with bearded irises.

Copyright 2012 Frances J. Pearce

For more information about Swan Lake Iris Gardens visit Sumter Tourism's blog:


"Frilled Enchantment" bloomed for me in early June of 2014.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Primula found among the ruins of the Viking church

One morning back in March, I spied small containers of primula displayed on a plant rack in front of the nearby Trader Joe’s grocery store. The one I bought sported deep blue flowers, the hue of its petals bordering on purple. At home, after adding the primula to a circular bed under the big live oak out front, I used a digital camera to photograph the blossoms.  The petals photographed as blue, but not the proper shade of blue, not even after I changed the settings on the camera multiple times, nor after I fiddled with the color saturation on my computer.

Still missing the hint of purple

As I sat at my computer trying to get the colors right, I remembered the pale yellow primula I spotted on an April day several years ago on the Orkney island of Egilsay. I found the primula growing wild among the ruins of the round-towered Viking church where, according to some accounts, Saint Magnus was brutally murdered in 1117.

In March when I bought the primrose, the sunshine, the chill in the air, and the wind made me feel as though I were back on Egilsay, although here in coastal South Carolina the wind is less pervasive.

Primroses growing in the wild on Skye

Last month I traveled to Scotland again. This time it was near Elgol on the Isle of Skye that I came across the pale yellow primula growing in the wild.  This time the day was overcast. This time the primrose climbed hills.