Telperion Oasis is not a commercial garden; it is partly an effort to create a pleasing outdoor space, and partly a hybridizing garden. The first irises I acquired in 2010 were mostly chosen for sentimental reasons: I remembered enjoying them years ago, and wanted to see them again. After a couple months, however, my efforts to resist the bite of the hybridizing bug failed completely, and I acquired what species and other suitable plants I could as the planting season ended. Many more were acquired in 2011 and subsequent years.
The climate here in northern New Mexico is congenial to my hybridizing projects: Winters are cold enough to meet the needs of hardy dwarf bearded species, and the climate is dry enough to accommodate the pure arils. The soil is a loamy sand, easy to work and readily modified with organic matter to produce a friable loam that has acceptable water and nutrient retention.
There are a couple areas of significant challenge, however. Spring temperatures are very erratic. Iris growers nearly everywhere, of course, must worry about late frosts during bloom season, but here that is a more consistent issue than anywhere else I have gardened. We almost always have a late frost some time in May, when medians and arilbreds are in full bloom or nearly so. This is a locale where even apple trees do not manage to escape the frosts and set fruit most years.
Water is also an issue. New Mexico has suffered from extreme drought in recent years, so I try to be conscious of this as I bring new areas under cultivation. Our water comes from a well, and the tank empties after only about an hour or so of full flow through the garden hose. I use soaker hoses to irrigate, letting the water flow slowly over many hours to avoid draining the tank. Larger beds (100- to 150-foot soakers) are left on overnight to not interfere with household water use, and smaller beds (25- to 50-foot soakers) are irrigated during the day. It thus takes about 10-12 days to water the entire garden, at which point I return to the first bed and start over again. So the present garden is near the limit of what I am able to water effectively.
I had originally buried soaker hoses undergroud to reduce evaporation loss, which worked wonderfully for about 3-4 years. Eventually, though, the hoses deteriorated, clogging and breaking frequently, resulting in uneven, inadequate watering and frequent frustrating repair work. Now I've returned to the more conventional approach of simply laying the hoses on the surface. This also allows me to arrange them to provide extra water to places where it seems especially needed.
Except for the seedling bed, my irises are all interplanted with other ornamentals. I use native and waterwise plants as companions to the irises, such as penstemons, salvia, alliums, sempervivums, sedums, and so on. I use only organic fertilizers, bagged compost mostly, as well as Yum Yum Mix, a blend of cottonseed, alfalfa, and minerals.
The pages below have many photos of the garden, as I started landscaping in earnest in 2010 and as the irises bloomed.
Beginning with 2018, I am no longer posting a bloom season page for each year. Instead, new photos are being incorporated into the galleries on the page for each fertile family.
Updated February 2019
Unless otherwise noted, all text and illustrations copyright Tom Waters and all photographs copyright Tom or Karen Waters. Please do not reproduce without permission.