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Saugus gardens in the spring

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Here’s what’s blooming in town this week to make your walks more enjoyable

Those cheering on the marchers in the Memorial Day parade in Saugus on Saturday were treated to some beautiful new plantings of annuals when they reached Riverside Cemetery. Patriotic plantings in the Saugus cemetery include the veterans’ plots and the memorials to our first responders, and each had very appropriate variations in the flower selection and arrangement. Stripes of red and white wax begonias (Begonia semperflorens), bloom at the G.A.R. plot where Civil War veterans who were members of Saugus’s Edward W. Hinks Post are buried. The shiny foliage of wax begonias helps keep the leaves from losing too much moisture on hot sunny summer days. The police monument includes true blue lobelia (Lobelia erinus), along with the red and white wax begonias. Plantings at the fire department monument included flame-like orange and red celosia (Celosia plumosa) and multicolored coleus (Coleus scutellarioides). Hanging baskets and combination plantings in pots and beds, which will flower steadily most of the summer, have appeared in gardens all over town.

Iris is the floral emblem of the Saugus Garden Club, and both bearded iris (Iris germanica hybrids) and Siberian iris (Iris sibirica) are in flower now. Bearded irises have a fuzzy area near the top of the falls that resembles a caterpillar, known as the beard. The color will vary from variety to variety – it often echoes some of the petal colors but sometimes it contrasts with them. Many of the light lavender irises have yellow or white beards, while ‘Hemstitched’ may have a white to pale blue-lilac beard, with splashes of bright yellow that intensify toward the interior. The raspberry/apricot ‘Rock Star’ has a reddish paprika color beard, and on my pale yellow irises the beards are nearly white. Some hybrid bearded irises have a distinctive and lovely scent, which comes from one of the ancestors of most bearded irises, sweet iris (Iris pallida). Sweet iris has pale violet standards and falls, with a yellowish orange beard. The “sweet” in its common name refers to its fragrance.

These irises prefer sunny locations and do well in soils that do not hold too much water. Their rhizomes store carbohydrates and help them thrive in dry soils. The rhizomes should be planted near the surface of the ground or just below, not buried deeply.

In Julia Aston’s garden near Saugus center, she has planted a beautiful range of perennials to ensure bloom throughout the growing season. Right now along her front fence are some unusual colors of bearded irises. The pattern of colors on the blossoms of ‘Hemstitched’ will certainly catch your eye. Both the upright standards and the drooping falls are mostly white, with a ruffly purple “hem” around the edges. If you look closely, small scattered “stitches” or freckles of purple can be found here and there against the white parts of the flowers. Also along the fence is a nearly black iris, actually a very dark purple if you look closely at them. Peonies and bleeding hearts are blooming around the garden, too, and many other perennials are awaiting their turn as summer progresses.

Editor’s Note: Laura Eisener is a landscape design consultant who helps homeowners with landscape design and plant selection, placement of trees and shrubs, as well as perennials. She is also a member of the Saugus Garden Club and offered to write a series of articles about “what’s blooming in town” shortly after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. She was inspired after seeing so many people taking up walking.

A UNIQUE SPRING SOUND: The killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) got its name for its high-pitched cry, as mentioned a few weeks ago in this column. The bird’s screech distracts predators from its nest. (Courtesy photo to The Saugus Advocate by Charles Zapolski)
‘ROCK STAR’ IRIS: This iris has an unusual color combination often described as raspberry and apricot. (Courtesy photo to The Saugus Advocate by Laura Eisener)
ANNUAL BLUE LOBELIA: This flower blooms near the Saugus police monument in Riverside Cemetery. (Courtesy photo to The Saugus Advocate by Laura Eisener)
‘HEMSTITCHED’ IRIS: In Julia Aston’s garden near Saugus center is one of the most beautiful color patterns of any iris. (Courtesy photo to The Saugus Advocate by Laura Eisener)
GROUND-NESTING BIRD: The killdeer can often be found in grassy areas in Saugus, and it is striking because of its large eyes and long legs. (Courtesy photo to The Saugus Advocate by Charles Zapolski)

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