Just a reminder to the Yorkton and District Horticultural Society members: the Society will be holding their season wind-up on Wednesday, June 19. This is a member’s only event, the last one before we take the summer off; members, if you have any questions about the event, please call Liz at 782-2830.
If you have had a chance to go walking, at a pace where you can observe all the beauty of spring as you walk, you may have noticed glorious clumps of irises here and there. While they may not be very long-blooming, irises are truly special while they are dazzling us with their flowers.
The Greek goddess of the rainbow, Iris, is the namesake for this family of perennials that offers us hundreds of bold and beautiful irises. They come in a size to suit any garden, from dwarf, mid-size Dutch varieties, and tall bearded types which can be a statement plant of almost four feet tall. Once upon a time we visited the gardens at the Calgary Zoo, and I remember seeing a periwinkle blue-mauve iris plant, probably four feet tall, with huge flowers. It was one of the most striking flowers I had ever seen. Irises have a palette from white to creamy yellow to pinks to bronzes to lavenders to purples and everything in-between.
Irises have the interesting distinction of being “bearded” or “beardless”. What does this mean? Bearded irises have a fuzzy white “beard” on the lower petal or “fall”, and beardless irises are smooth. Bearded irises are the most common, while irises like the tall and slender Siberian irises are beardless. Sometimes the bearded irises have petals of one color and falls of another: what a show they are in the spring garden!
Irises like well-drained soil, and like to have at least half a day of sunshine. They are not fussy about water requirements, a plus if you are leaning towards a xeriscape garden.
These beauties grow from rhizomes, and they look like large pieces of ginger root with smaller roots coming from the main bulb. They are a type of bulb that needs special care when planting. They should be planted so that they are slightly visible on the soil surface: don’t dig a deep hole to plant them, as you would a tulip. You are really planting the roots, but the rhizome itself should be almost resting on the soil surface. I read that if we plant them too deep they will not bloom, and if we give them fertilizer that is rich in nitrogen they could rot.
As with many plants, once the irises are finished blooming, we should cut off the spent blooms so that the plant will put its energy into the roots again. In the fall, trim the leaves back to two or three inches. Fall is the ideal time to plant irises; keep this in mind if you have to divide them.
Yes, they do reach a stage where they should be divided to keep up their vitality, usually between three to five years. Years ago, we got a lovely clump of Siberian irises from my Auntie Frances. Mom had the clump growing in her yard, and when we started our garden, Mom gave us part of that clump. Since then, we have shared it with our plant sales over the years as the time came to divide the plant. We knew it was time to divide when the plant began to start pushing up soil, got too dense, or began to form a hollow ring in the centre of the clump.
Irises are long-lived perennials that will provide beautiful flowers in spring and striking foliage for the rest of the growing season. They’re a wonderful addition to any garden or flowerbed!
Visit us at www.yorktonhort.ca; have a great week and be sure to wear a hat!