Saturday, August 15, 2015

What I have learned from growing Iris

I remember seeing and smelling Iris at my Grand Mothers house when I was about 8 years old. I loved their appearance and fragrance. It was not until the 1990's when I began appreciating Iris enough to grow them. Our church had a collection of several spectacular Iris and I got the bug. I started a serious Iris garden about 2001. I joined the Iris Society about 2008. Since that time I have learned many tricks of the trade and experienced the disappointment of losing many iris to the iris bore. Here are some fundamentals I have learned by growing, caring for and transplanting iris. 

·         Iris do not like wet feet.  You should plant iris on a mound or a slope. They like good drainage. Too much water will lead to slugs, snails and rotting of the leaves; once the rust appears on the leaf; cut it off immediately.

·         Iris rhizomes like the sunlight. When you plant make sure the tops of the rhizome are exposed; not buried completely.  I have a slide that will illustrate this.

·         Iris thrive in the sunlight; or at least 50% sunlight.  You need sun to get a full bloom.

·         You must thin your rhizomes when they begin to get overcrowded in your bed; you will notice a decline in stalks and blooms.  Best is to use a sharp spade to split them. Sometimes I will transplant them into pots so I can share more of them with friends.

·         When you order from the Hybridizers / Iris Suppliers they send them out after the bloom; so expect to get them in June or July. I was in shock when I was told to plant them in the middle of the summer. I did, watered regularly, without over watering, and they grew beautifully. It was great when I finally saw the new growth.

·         You can force Iris to bloom in the greenhouse; force doesn’t sound politically correct; so let’s say you can advance the bloom by keeping them in light and warm. I heat my greenhouse at night if it is going to get near freezing.  I will generally translate some Iris into pots about April 1.  They will bloom at least two –three weeks early.

·         The standard dwarf Iris will bloom before the traditional tall bearded Iris.

·         The beauty of having some Iris in pots is that you get to observe their blooming process close up; my greenhouse table means I don’t have to bend over to get close. In addition I get some great photos of my Iris in the greenhouse.  Plus I can move the Iris into different studio settings; i.e. different backgrounds; patio bricks, grass, woods, textures of arbor vitae for example.   

·         Photographing Iris is a wonderful way to extend the enjoyment of their beauty; I sometimes wonder how much beauty one person can take in; it is so enriching to be around the beautiful.    

·         You can buy very fragrant Iris

·         You can see a gorgeous bed  of Japanese Iris at Kingwood Gardens in Mansfield

·         The Tony and Dorothy Willott  Iris Garden is located at the Rockefeller Greenhouse off of Martin Luther King Drive; right off of Rte 94 by Lake Erie. (First exit to the left on MLK Drive after turning South off of 94) Follow Greenhouse signs. Wonderful display of Iris beginning in early April and going through early July.

·         The amateur can hybridize new Iris cultivars by cross pollinating two different Iris.

·         Check out the Facebook page IRIS LOVERS for an amazing display of Iris in all their variety, and glory.

·         Send questions to or make comments on this site. 

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