A month ago I was very fortunate to meet a lady from Perugia who was thinning plants her garden.  She has a small garden just on the outskirts of the centro storico of Perugia, indeed part of the city wall forms a boundary to her terraced garden.

I was very kindly gifted fifty Iris corms.  I adore Irises and have done for many years.  They grow well in Italy.  In Scotland I always planted the corm with the upper third sitting on top of the soil, for I understand they rot if buried.

Here in Umbria they are best buried, the weather is dryer and they prefer a slightly cooler temperature.  I thought these were the only reasons but no.

I had this crazy idea to start an iris walk on the path leading down to the site of the saunas.  There is a slight raised bank on the right and I fully imagined in a few years when the irises has multiplied a colourful array of delicate spring flowers bobbing under the fig trees

Oh what a fool!  Last year I planted a few irises in the bed near the front door, only to find they had been systematically dug up, but by whom?  This year my friend assured me that her corms would survive…

Well they did for six weeks or so.  Every evening I meticulously watered the planting spots, and talked encouragingly to the corms, and sure enough they began to grow.  The iris walk showed promise, ok only fifty plants but a positive beginning.  Then four mornings ago I saw one uprooted, the one furthest from the house.

Three mornings ago, a further three plants dug up, annoyingly, the corms are only half eaten, but the foliage ripped off.  Someone or something is working its way towards the house up my iris walk.

The culprit, an Istrice.  What is an istrice?  In english, a porcupine.  A rodent about 50 cm long with quills that detach when the porcupine shakes or comes into contact with another animal.  Indeed one of the dogs returned home last year with three porcupine quills sticking out of her muzzle.  The quills have barbs making them difficult to extract.  Porcupines seem to love any form of bulb, corm, potato or bean.  I guess they are working their way up to the orto where the potatoes are in full bloom.  Honestly it is not my intention to garden to feed the wildlife!

Maybe I should collect up the rejected quills and place them round the remaining irises, it’s either that or resorting to chicken wire fencing round every plant. Suggestions welcome for iris preservation.

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