A little over eight years ago, I dug up most of the plants around my rented Santa Cruz house and drove north with them to Eureka, where I live now. I was in a frenzy of grief and anger over the results of the 2000
election Supreme Court decision, and I found it soothing to spend that miserable January outside putting plants in the ground.
Among the plants I brought with me were a few bearded irises that came from an aunt’s garden. I planted catmint along the walkway leading to my front door and crammed the irises, along with a couple dozen daffodils, between the catmint. In the spring, I got a nice little show of yellow daffodils, blue irises, and then a very helpful bloom of purple catmint to hide the foliage. Sounds nice, huh?
The thing with irises is that you’re supposed to divide them every four years, and one way to remember that is to divide them during presidential election seasons. So four years later, during another emotionally difficult election, did I take out my anger and grief on the irises? Did I yank them out of the ground and tear them violently asunder, and did I find strength and renewal in the process of putting them back in the ground and restoring order to the world?
No, I did not. I ignored the irises. I felt distracted and hopeless and unable to take charge over anything, even my own perennials. So they stayed in the ground for another four years, and I justified my laziness on the grounds that I should stick to the presidential election cycle or I’d never remember when the four years was up.
As you can imagine, over those eight years the irises grew into knotty, woody, non-blooming horrors that were good for nothing but smothering daffodils and putting up spiky, half-dead foliage.
I hate them. And now, with another election on the horizon, I am throwing the incumbents out. I can’t take four more years of this.
So I have tossed them out. Sent them packing. Set them out on the curb with their luggage.
And you know what? I’ve had no takers. Nobody wants them. The approval ratings of bearded irises has, it appears, dropped to an all-time low. They can’t even get stolen in this town.
It’s time for a change. Can we find something better than bearded iris to plant in our gardens? Yes, we can.
I’m thinking heathers. They’re on sale at a specialty nursery next weekend. They’re asking for my vote, and they just might get it.