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Foothill iris farm open for visitors

Bluebird Haven Iris Garden in south El Dorado County wine country

Sacramento Digs Gardening logo
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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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Sept. 24:

This week our weather will be just right for fall gardening. What are you waiting for?

* Now is the time to plant for fall. The warm soil will get these veggies off to a fast start.

* Keep harvesting tomatoes, peppers, squash, melons and eggplant. Tomatoes may ripen faster off the vine and sitting on the kitchen counter.

* Compost annuals and vegetable crops that have finished producing.

* Cultivate and add compost to the soil to replenish its nutrients for fall and winter vegetables and flowers.

* Fertilize deciduous fruit trees.

* Plant onions, lettuce, peas, radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, bok choy, spinach and potatoes directly into the vegetable beds.

* Transplant cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower as well as lettuce seedlings.

* Sow seeds of California poppies, clarkia and African daisies.

* Transplant cool-weather annuals such as pansies, violas, fairy primroses, calendulas, stocks and snapdragons.

* Divide and replant bulbs, rhizomes and perennials. That includes bearded iris; if they haven’t bloomed in three years, it’s time to dig them up and divide their rhizomes.

* Dig up and divide daylilies as they complete their bloom cycle.

* Divide and transplant peonies that have become overcrowded. Replant with “eyes” about an inch below the soil surface.

* Late September is ideal for sowing a new lawn or re-seeding bare spots.

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