Eyes on Iris

iris pallida-Aureo-variegata2 What’s best about May in Connecticut? The warming weather, the bright sunshine, more daylight, trees in full leaf, fantastic spring flowers, and IRIS … it’s the one flower I cannot get enough of.

Siberian iris are stand-bys in my gardens. My first clump came from a gardening friend years – probably 30 – ago. They have moved with me and over the years one clump turned into many, many, many clumps in my gardens and in those of other friends. Siberians must be planted a couple of inches below the soil surface – they do not grow from bulbs or corms as other iris – but send out fleshy roots into the soil. Clumps become thick and if not divided every few years, blooms will diminish in number. A good old garden fork is the best way to divide Siberian clumps. Once replanted, in sun or partial shade, they quickly establish. The foliage remains green all summer and provides a wonderful backdrop for later blooming perennials and annuals. Like my reticulatas, my Siberian iris bloom in purples, but I see other shades of lavender and white joining them in coming springs.Siberian iris1

My bearded iris-Hello Darkness established ‘black’ bearded iris – actually the darkest of dark purple and I’m not sure of the variety – are just about to open. But I have a new acquisition – Hello Darkness – that now resides near a palest of blue, but really looks white – bearded iris – again I’m unsure of the variety. This ‘white’ bearded iris surprised me with a repeat blossom last October.

bearded iris-pale blue1

iris-white fragrantA fragrant white bearded iris blooms next to the also fragrant iris pallida “’Aureo-variegata’ – a rebloomer with lovely lavender blossoms standing above yellow striped leaves. The sweet scents wafting from this combo make the striking flowers all the more attractive.

iris pallida-Aureo-variegata1

Last year’s acquisition – might be Beverly Sills – shines in striking peachy, lavender tones …

iris-Beverly Sills

whether left in the garden or brought inside to enjoy in bouquet form.

iris bouquet-Beberly Sills 2

Bearded iris bloom well as long as their long corms are planted just below the surface of the soil. Plant too deep and blooms suffer. Bearded iris foliage tends to turn brown at the tips as summer progresses. After flowers fade, remove the flower stalk. If the leaves brown, slice off the browned tips, but I don’t remove all foliage until it has completely browned. Common advice is to thin bearded iris clumps in the fall, but I tend to move them around in the spring and early summer. As long as plants have ample water, they do just fine. When  transplanting, throw out any damaged, soft iris corms, or those with tiny holes – a sign of iris borers. I’ve seen some signs of borers, but after removing infected parts and replanting healthy corms in a new spot, transplants do just fine in my Connecticut soils.

iris reticulata-close up 3-10-10 The first iris blossoms, the reticulatas, come in the earliest spring – or this year just before spring actually sprung on the calendar. Plant reticulatas in the fall with other spring blooming bulbs and they will tease your iris passion early next spring. Mine bloom purplely-blue but white reticulatas are in my future.

Like so many spring bloomers this year, all but my iris reticulatas started their show early – just before mid-May.

iris-fragrant white and pallida Aureo-vaiegata1 iris combo-white lavender1

But judging from the number of buds yet to open, and knowing I have later blooming varieties yet to come, I’m looking forward to eying  – and sniffing – iris for weeks to come.

2 comments for “Eyes on Iris

  1. May 23, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    That peachy pink frilly one does look like ‘Beverly Sills’. I love your black iris… what depth of color! For some reason I can’t grow Siberian irises, don’t know why, they are supposed to be so easy. I have 4 or 5 plants, but get nothing, no stalks, no blooms, barely any foliage. Something is wrong in Siberia. They’re only 2 years in my garden, but I’ll try digging them up and dividing.

  2. joenesgarden
    May 23, 2010 at 11:17 pm

    Sorry to hear that Laurrie. Make sure you are not planting the corms too deep. They like to be just at the soil surface – only barely covered with soil.

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