Saturday, May 26, 2007

Irresistible Iris

Irresistible Iris. I didn't always feel that way about this flower. When my husband and I moved into our home nine years ago this August (wow, time flies!) I inherited a small bunch of tall bearded iris. They were planted in a corner of the yard, under a tree and never performed particulary well. I left them alone for years and years and never gave them much thought.

While I often puttered in the garden, I didn't get really serious about gardening until about three years ago. That's when I decided to give my pathetic little iris blooms a fair shake. I'm so glad I did because they have rewarded me ever since with a stunning display in late spring.

I quickly discovered part of the problem with my existing, lacklustre blooms. Whoever planted them to begin with buried their rhizomes deep under the soil. I don't think the irises appreciated it. The plants were also in a corner that proved to be too shady. I transplanted them to a sunny spot and left the rhizomes exposed. What a payoff! The flowers flourished and have more than doubled in size in the last few years. I'm already planning to divide them for next year (although I'll have to research exactly the best time to do that.)

As a group planting, I like iris best just before they are about to bloom. Their tall, spear-like stems with just a hint of the colour to come just scream "Look at me! I'll be ready for my close-up soon." Once in bloom, a drift of iris looks great too. But why enjoy these blooms from afar? These are flowers that you should get up close and personal with. There's so much to see. First, you've got the Standards -- the three upward-arching petals. Then you get another three petals called the Falls. As the name suggests, they fall away from the blossom. And then there are my favourites: the beards. The fuzzy, brush-like, tickle inducing hairs that sit on the Falls. There's more, but then this isn't a botany class.

I've read in several gardening books that irises aren't worth the trouble. They get attacked by iris borers and their foliage turns brown by midsummer and needs to be plucked away. Bah-humbug I say to those gardener writers. You've got it wrong. I've heard the tall bearded irises described as queens of the iris world, and I for one, am delighted to be in the presence of royalty.

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