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Foothill iris farm open for visitors

Bluebird Haven Iris Garden in south El Dorado County wine country

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Sacramento Digs Gardening
Gazebo with many pink, white, yellow irises in the foreground
Bluebird Haven in Somerset features more than 100,000 bearded irises in bloom. (Photo courtesy Mary Hess)

Here’s another little road trip that will delight flower fans (including moms).

Bluebird Haven Iris Garden is now in full bloom with more than 100,000 bearded irises flying their colorful flags.

Located at 6940 Fairplay Road in Somerset, Bluebird is about an hour’s drive east from Sacramento in the wine country of southern El Dorado County.

“Bluebird Haven Iris Garden is a Victorian show garden in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California,” explains owner Mary Hess. “An acre of landscaped iris, daffodils, wildflowers, and a variety of shrubs and trees are surrounded by acres of row-cultivated iris.”

“This year, we plan to be open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for four weekends starting April 28 and the last day will be May 23, depending on bloom,” says Hess. “Usually the first or second weekend in May is our peak bloom time.”

Admission is $5 per person. Kids under 12 admitted free. Due to COVID-19, plan to wear a face mask and maintain social distancing.

Hess sells her irises, too. Bring paper and pencil (or pen) to jot down your favorite varieties, then place your order via her website, .

Hess started her iris garden in 1967. She’s been planting more varieties, often by the dozen, every year ever since and now has hundreds in every color and combination imaginable.

“Our garden features a Victorian gazebo, park benches, paths for viewing and selecting your favorite irises, and picnic tables for a leisurely lunch,” Hess said on her website. “We have a wide selection of outstanding iris varieties for you to choose from, featuring both antique and moderns.”

Hess invites visitors to enjoy her bountiful garden.

“We will have scattered benches and a few tables to sit at in family groups but there are no trash cans here for your garbage,” she notes. “Pack it in, pack it out. ”

Questions? Call 530-620-5017.

Driving time from Sacramento is about one hour. Here are the directions, according to Hess: “From Sacramento, take Highway 16 east to Plymouth. Follow the signs to River Pines via E16 by turning right at the roundabout in Plymouth, stay on the main road, Highway 16. Turn right onto Fairplay Road, and watch for our sign.”

Details: .


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Garden Checklist for week of April 14

It's still not warm enough to transplant tomatoes directly in the ground, but we’re getting there.

* April is the last chance to plant citrus trees such as dwarf orange, lemon and kumquat. These trees also look good in landscaping and provide fresh fruit in winter.

* Smell orange blossoms? Feed citrus trees with a low dose of balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) during bloom to help set fruit. Keep an eye out for ants.

* Apply slow-release fertilizer to the lawn.

* Thoroughly clean debris from the bottom of outdoor ponds or fountains.

* Spring brings a flush of rapid growth, and that means your garden needs nutrients. Fertilize shrubs and trees with a slow-release fertilizer. Or mulch with a 1-inch layer of compost.

* Azaleas and camellias looking a little yellow? If leaves are turning yellow between the veins, give them a boost with chelated iron.

* Trim dead flowers but not leaves from spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. Those leaves gather energy to create next year's flowers. Also, give the bulbs a fertilizer boost after bloom.

* Pinch chrysanthemums back to 12 inches for fall flowers. Cut old stems to the ground.

* Mulch around plants to conserve moisture and control weeds.

* From seed, plant beans, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, corn, cucumbers, melons, radishes and squash.

* Plant onion sets.

* In the flower garden, plant seeds for asters, cosmos, celosia, marigolds, salvia, sunflowers and zinnias.

* Transplant petunias, zinnias, geraniums and other summer bloomers.

* Plant perennials and dahlia tubers for summer bloom.

* Mid to late April is about the last chance to plant summer bulbs, such as gladiolus and tuberous begonias.

* Transplant lettuce seedlings. Choose varieties that mature quickly such as loose leaf.

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