Monday, July 3, 2017

A Fond Farewell to Tall Bearded Irises and Other Dreams

By Dawn Mumford

"How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

This blog is my "goodbye blog". I'm starting with some lyrics sung by Carrie Underwood. The songwriters are Angelo T. Petraglia and Hillary Lee Lindsey.

   Press here to hear Carrie sing the song: 

It is the chorus to that song that really spoke to me:

“I guess it’s going to have to hurt,

 I guess I'm going to have to cry,
And let go of some things I've loved
to get to the other side,
I guess it's going to break me down,

Like falling when you try to fly,
It’s sad but sometimes moving on with the rest of your life,
starts with goodbye”

The following is a bit of my history with the blog, my irises and the reason for making this choice to stop writing this blog.  I’m at the crossroads and I have to make a choice.

I have so many wonderful memories of growing irises and sharing information with other growers. I have had irises in my garden since 1970. The oldest picture I could find to show you is of my irises was in 1974. The quality of the photo is not what we have come to expect with today’s technology.

This is a picture of skinny me showing my third child, Zane, the pretty iris.

This is Zane now as a 44 year old grandfather. 

In 1977 my husband got his first real job as a PhD organic chemist. He was hired to be a rocket scientist by Thiokol. We moved from Sandy, Utah to Brigham City, Utah about 70 miles to the north. We bought a home on about a quarter acre lot and started our iris collection in earnest then. My next door neighbor was already addicted to irises and I caught the bug from her although I had already been dabbling in them. My neighbor and I would order various different irises from Schreiner's and Cooley's and in 2-3 years when we divided them we would share with each other.

Early pictures of the Brigham City garden.

Early pictures of the Brigham City garden.

By the time we moved again in 2005 we had a pretty large  collection. 

In 2000 we bought a piece of property seven miles south of us in Willard.  It was 5 ½ acres and included peach, cherry, apple and plum trees.  It also had unlimited room for irises.  I made my husband promise we would build a house there.  He needed to retire first.

We put three rows of irises in the field but the house was not yet started.  The rows were 75 feet long.

The irises flourished in the orchard soil. It had lots of drainage and other nutrients. 

Intermingled with the iris story is the story of our dream home. In 2003 we started building our dream home. It was the ultimate Do-It-Yourself project.. I did not know how difficult it would be so not knowing any better we took the plunge. We worked on the house eight hours every day except Sunday for 18 months until we finally moved in with the main floor finished on January 5, 2005. Our house in Brigham sold a year later and that is when we brought all the starts that we could find to the new place in Willard.

Digging up the irises from the Brigham City garden took a lot of effort.

Here is a picture of the back of the house before Neal put the rock and stucco on it.

This is the back of the house after the rock and stucco were added.

 This is after we had moved all the irises from the yard in Brigham.

The finished courtyard and water feature in 2016.

This picture was taken in 2009

As you can see this photo was taken in 2011 when we had been in our home about 6 years.

This picture was taken in the front yard looking through the iris at our house.  It is one of my favorite photographs. 

Another picture of our dream home taken at the golden hour.

People always comment on the mountain backdrop.  It really does make a pretty setting.

These are the 3 peaks that are viewed from the front of our house. Our iris are at elevation 4,329.

In 2010 something happened that drastically changed our hopes and dreams. We had planned on staying in our home for the rest of our lives. As you all know life doesn’t always go as planned. In 2010 my husband was diagnosed with early onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Neal was only 64 years old at the time. We were stunned. What would we do? How could I possibly watch and help my beloved husband as he slowly lost abilities and memories? Besides that he was the sole person who took care of the 350 trees. There is a saying by Bob Marley that "you don't know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice". Well we kept plugging along for six more years. We finished the basement and all the little things that weren't quite done on the house. We hired a landscaper and a contractor to build a courtyard in the back yard with a water feature and to put in sprinklers and trees, shrubs, and lawn in the back yard. This time we didn't do the work ourselves. We got everything just how we wanted it. Neal still worked in the trees and the irises and I ordered, cataloged, planned color beds etc. for the irises. In 2014 I started writing about irises for the American Iris Society Blog.

We tried to do a lot of things together to enjoy Neal while we could. This is my children and a couple of grandchildren putting together the gazebo.

The courtyard and fountain after they were finished.

Back view from the air looking east.

In 2016, January, I slipped on black ice and broke my right arm up by the shoulder and a fracture about 2 inches down from the socket.  It was a bad break and didn’t heal right so in August I had surgery to repair a rotator cuff and take out bone chips and clean up other damage.  2 ½ weeks later I fell at home and broke my left arm in exactly the same place as my right arm.  Now I was helpless and in two slings.  We stayed with one son and his family for three weeks. I couldn't drive for four months during the 2016 year. We then went to a Senior Living Center into a small cottage where I could heal.  It was there that we realized that life in Willard and our Irises and dream home were too much work for us now.  We decided to put our home up for sale.  It was something we never planned on doing but our 3 kids will be much nearer to us to help if needed. 

Our dream home is currently on the market and we will be looking for something to live in south of Salt Lake probably in Alpine.  We will downsize and hopefully find living a bit easier.  

The finished dream home

Four months ago Neal qualified for Hospice care so a nurse comes in once a week and an aid twice a week to help me.  I am grateful for their support and the support of my children and grandchildren

I am not writing this to whine. We have had so many blessings and have received love and encouragement from family and friends. This blog is just to explain why this will be my last blog for a long while. I guess there are some things more important than irises…but not many.

I am grateful that Renee Frazer and Andi Rivarola asked me to write about Tall Bearded Irises.  Irises have been a joy for us and it has been fun to get to know other iris lovers.  I have worked with many other fine vendors and consider them my friends and appreciate their work in hybridizing and selling their creations. I especially want to thank Phil Williams from Rocky Top Iris Gardens for his words of understanding and encouragement.  They helped more than he will know.  Finally I want to share favorite pictures of irises through the years. 

'Gypsy Lord' Keith Keppel, 2005, Dykes Medal 2015 (Gitano in the background)

'Embrace Me' Robert Van Liere, 2008

'Stairway To Heaven' Larry Lauer, 1992 , Dykes Medal 2000

'Aphrodisiac' Schreiners, 1986.  This was taken at at 6:15 p.m. and so there is more pink color than usual.

'Bravery' Joseph Ghio , 2011. Dramatically beautiful!

'Daughter Of Stars' Donald Spoon, 2000, Bloomed for me in May and again in October and though I didn't document it , I think it bloomed a couple of other months too.

'Happenstance' Keith Keppel, 2000 Perfect!

'Edith Wolford' Ben Hager, 1984, Dykes Medal 1993.  This photograph is probably my favorite that I have ever taken.  It won Runner Up in the photo contest for 2016. I love the light coming through it making it shimmer.

The iris patch with the mountains in the background. This photograph was one of the winners in the photo contest in 2016.  I felt very honored.  

I don't know where we are going to finally settle.  I don't even know if we will have irises anymore.  Paul Auster said goodbye better than I can: "and now we get to the hard part, the endings, the farewells, and the famous last words. if you don't hear from me often, remember that you're in my thoughts.” 

I can't say it any better.  Happy gardening.


  1. Thank you for your wonderful "blog". And for sharing your story with us. My heart goes out to you and your family. Sue and I also have tragedy in our family and can understand what you are facing. May God bless you and your family and help you through this trying period of your life.

  2. Thank you for telling us the story of your beautiful home and garden, Dawn, and for sharing pictures of the results of your hard work. You bring so much beauty into the world, and shared it with all of us on this blog. Although it is sad there will be no new stunning photographs and collages from you, we will return here to look at them again and again. Bless you and Neal and thank you for bringing all of this beauty to us.

  3. Dawn, thank you so much for sharing so many wonderful images and notes of your beautiful irises, and for giving us a historical overview of your family situation. All the best to you and Neil, and the rest of your loved ones. With gratitude and appreciation. :)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...