Garden Photo of the Day

Dora’s Swampy Oasis

Turning a swamp into a garden

Today we’re in Jacksonville, North Carolina, visiting with Dora Compton.

Here are a few pictures of my backyard oasis. Several years ago, I took an area that always stayed wet and plugged it with irises dug up from another location. There were times I was up to my knees in muck! Boots on, of course. I did this in the middle of the winter so as not to run into any snakes, mosquitoes, or the occasional alligator—not that I’ve seen one yet (alligator, that is; we do see an occasional snake and plenty of mosquitoes after May). My neighbor tells me that one lived back there when he was a child (about 40 years ago). I also had to rework my pathway after Hurricane Florence. The entire area flooded and left muck and mud everywhere!

This spring, I had the pleasure of being home for the month of April due to COVID-19, and Mother Nature did not disappoint! The irises I planted gave me the most spectacular show ever! Pictures don’t really capture how beautiful it was. My trail also has filled in nicely with moss, and hostas and ferns are making their way back.

Japanese-style gateA Japanese-style gate welcomes you into the garden.

purple irisesHappy purple irises in a mass behind a bench.

Clouds of irises thriving in the rich, wet soil. These are Lousiana irises, a group of hybrids of species native to the wetlands of the southeastern United States, and clearly they are very happy here. They’ll thrive in drier soils as well, but they are a perfect choice for wet spots.

Wide view of the patch of irises, looking as if nature had planted them.

A Japanese maple (Acer palmatum, Zones 5–9) in a pot brings color and an Asian flavor to the garden.

A tall cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea, Zones 4–9) is a native species that is usually found in wet, boggy ground in the wild. It will adapt to a wide range of conditions in the garden, but it reaches the most dramatic height in wet spots.

Garden sculpture with irises behind it.

mass of irisesAnother view of the gorgeous mass of irises. The red tones of the flowers in the front are a giveaway that these are Louisiana irises, as they have the closest to true-red blooms of any of the irises.

garden seating areaMossy paths and ample seating areas invite you to explore and enjoy.


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View Comments


  1. Patchworkgardener 05/13/2020

    Hi Dora. I live just down the road from you in Wilmington and I am green with envy over those iris. Talk about right plant in right place, you nailed it. I love all your pictures. That birdbath is really unique, as are all the Asian touches. Love your mossy path and seating areas too. Lovely garden. Thanks for sharing

  2. User avater
    user-7007816 05/13/2020

    Hi Dora, I like how you have taken a difficult setting turned it into a beautiful natural setting. I like the peaceful Japanese touches. Great job.

  3. davlinkun 05/13/2020

    A very nice and unique garden, thank you .
    A very relaxing natural environment to me.

  4. Maggieat11 05/13/2020

    Really beautiful. I love the mix of your plantings and the nature trees. The iris are stunning en mass. Thanks for sharing your lovely gardens. All your garden decor is a nice addition!

    1. Maggieat11 05/13/2020

      Mature trees, that is!

  5. User avater
    treasuresmom 05/13/2020

    Oh, my, those Irises are out of this world!

  6. Musette1 05/13/2020

    Dora, your garden is a gorgeous example of what one can do with plants that are best suited to your area and proper siting. Those Louisiana irises are stunning, as is the whole garden. Thanks so much for sharing this beauty with us!

  7. cheryl_c 05/13/2020

    Dora, I'll bet you are good at making lemonade from very sour lemons, too! What a deft hand you used in choosing just a few different native plants and putting them into the perfect environment. Your casual nod to the Asian is the crowning touch. Well done, and it will only get better!

  8. Sunshine111 05/13/2020

    How lovely!

  9. moyra_b 05/13/2020

    What a peaceful, beautiful haven!

  10. User avater
    meander_michaele 05/13/2020

    I have never seen an almost literal living stream of iris like what you's a remarkably beautiful sight. I'm so glad that your efforts of digging and transplanting have been so successful and each spring you will be rewarded by this wonderful collaboration with Mother Nature.

  11. User avater
    simplesue 05/13/2020

    Even living up north all my life,I've heard of a lot of southern plants but never heard of the Louisiana Iris before and am glad to know about it.
    I love your natural woodland garden and really envy that mossy stone path...I just can't get moss to grow anywhere except the cracks in the driveway LOL.
    Great job on the garden!

  12. wittyone 05/13/2020

    Beautiful vista. The long shots of the iris flowing off through the trees remind me of the bluebell woods in England. Taller plants of course and more varied colors but the bountiful nature is just the same. Right plant, right place----it always works.

    I'm surprised that those irises do so well in what must be a very shady situation under those trees. I always think of iris a needing a bright sunny spot to flourish.

  13. btucker9675 05/13/2020

    Love the mossy paths! One side of my acre lot in northern NJ was shaded by huge trees and had lots of lovely moss... So many "yard care" companies would stop to tell me they could "get rid" of it for me and I would politely shoo them away! Would love to have some here in my NC garden. Your irises are spectacular - one of my very favorite plants. You've made a truly beautiful place - thank you for sharing it with us.

  14. PattyLouise 05/13/2020

    Lovely oasis you have created! The iris are gorgeous!

  15. CeilSC 05/14/2020

    Surprised also by shady spot for your irises. Have wet, shady area where I will try some!

  16. user-5117752 05/17/2020

    Oh, how lovely! I just love your woodland setting with all the iris and moss pathway! I'm trying a cinnamon fern in a very large barrel and some critter is biting off the fronds but leaving them in the barrel. Any suggestions? Your are looking so handsome!

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