By Bryce Williamson
White. A color so important in the garden and so often ignored. I would shock people when giving judges’ training with the idea that the two most important colors in the iris garden were yellow and white. I stick to that position—yellow bring a shaft of sunlight into the garden and whites are…
Tag Archives: drought tolerant
“Summer Olympics” in your yard?
So, you’re not a world-class gymnast, or the world’s fastest sprinter, or even a sun-tanned beach volleyball player,but still you might be dreaming of an “Afternoon in Rio”, or of someday joining the Summer Olympics….We all have dreams, don’t we? Well, we’re excited for the summer games even still. Opening August 5th in Rio de Janeiro, the games inspire us all the world over. And right here in Oregon (home of several Olympic athletes, incidentally), we’re inspired to have some fun with Iris names while we await the lighting of the cauldron.
Top of the list “Summer Olympics“: Aptly named for its bright golden color that often will come around in the summer or late fall in addition to the spring bloom, as it is a reblooming Iris.
The US Olympic Dream Team has got the “Dream Ticket“to bring home that “Pure As Gold” hunk o’metal draped around their necks this summer.
One for all of you aspirational types, here’s to “Dreaming of Rio“. And why not? If athletes can dream big, why not the rest of arm-chair contenders?
And for all the athletes whose dreams have come true, spending the “Afternoon in Rio“, we send our joyous congratulations! Dream big, win big, and go for the gold!
The rest of us can enjoy the games, in the afternoon, on the patio, gazing at our summer gardens.
Bearded Iris Grow Strong All Summer Long
Summer days, summer gardens. Most enjoyable. For the Tall Bearded Iris in your garden, summer is also the perfect time to grow, to expand, to be transplanted.
Bearded Iris experience two root growth cycles in their annual growing cycle. The springtime growth we all eagerly anticipate in our Iris beds begins with the lengthening of the foliage upward and the root system outward. The rhizome uses its stored-up nutrients.”….As the bud swellings appear in the new fans there is a quickening of the new roots that will supply the plant with nutrients for new growth during and after bloom. The old roots from the previous year’s growth then wither and decay.” ( The World of Irises, p 314) After the springtime color display of full bloom has passed for the year, the underground development begins in earnest.
The Iris revel in the long summer days. During the six to eight weeks post bloom, the plants absorb the necessary nutrients for next spring’s growth and bloom. The rhizomes send out new increases which will become new self-contained, self-supporting rhizomes by early to mid-July. Once the summer growth is complete, the Iris takes a well-earned rest. Enter the gardener, spade in hand, plan in mind. Now is the time to dig, divide, share and transplant.
Here, in the Willamette Valley our Iris bloom season ends early- to mid-June. Therefore, at Schreiner’s Iris Gardens, we begin digging our fields early to mid-July. On a smaller scale in your garden, consider digging your Iris to transplant this summer if the clump is three to five years old. Share the divided Iris not only in your own garden, but also with the neighbors, friends and family….garden clubs, retirement homes, 4H clubs, and so on. Allowing Iris clumps to become over grown can lead to poor or no blossoms, smaller and smaller rhizomes, and outbreaks of rhizome-based diseases (such as bacterial soft rot).
Remember that the latest date for transplanting depends on local conditions. Newly planted Iris require a minimum of 6 weeks to set their new roots. Thus, they should be in the ground a minimum of six weeks before the first hard frost. Consult local resources to determine the frost dates in your area.
So, how do you go about digging and dividing the Iris in your garden? Visit our “How to Grow Iris” pages for more details and images on dividing and caring for your Iris! Take a look at another great Iris care resource, “A Guide to Bearded Irises: Cultivating the Rainbow“, by Kelly D. Norris.
What’s happening in the July garden? To trim or not to trim the foliage…Depending on your location, you may have a handful of lingering Iris blossoms, or all of your bloom stalks might be sporting the papery remains of the seasons’ blooms. When all blossoms on the stalks have finished, carefully trim the bloom stalk at its base. Leave all green foliage, though, in place. They offer an elegant vertical visual throughout the garden. You may remove any browned and dry leaves. Keep the Iris beds clean and free of weeds. Well-established Iris plants are drought tolerant. Newly planted Iris, though, do require a good long drink approximately every 7 to 10 days if the weather is very dry. Reblooming Iris also prefer irrigation between the spring bloom and summer/autumn re-bloom times. We recommend an application of a low-nitrogen fertilizer (such as 6-10-10) approximately one month after blooms have finished. Superphosphate and bonemeal also work well as a fertilizer for Iris.
Summer brings the promise of long days enjoying our gardens and all aspects of our lives. The season also brings with it our annual Summer Sale. You’ll find over 300 varieties of Tall Bearded Iris at deeply discounted prices.
June Has Busted, June Has Burst! Quench Your Tall Bearded Iris Thirst!
The summer solstice, a most propitious date — brings the promise of long, heady days of summer, reaping the success in our gardens and in all aspects of our lives. June 21st also heralds the start of our 2014 Summer Sale. You’ll find over 350 varieties of Tall Bearded Iris at deeply discounted prices. Pictured on the cover of our summer sale catalog below is a special bonus for your summer sale order. “Swept Off My Feet”, one of our 2014 introductions, is the 2014 Summer Sale bonus. Use coupon code SSC2014 to get yours. (*Limit one per customer; minimum $25 order of plants.)
What’s happening in the June garden? Depending on your location, you may have a handful of lingering Iris blossoms, or all of your bloom stalks might be sporting the papery remains of the seasons’ blooms. When all blossoms on the stalks have finished, carefully trim the bloom stalk at its base. Leave all green foliage in place. They offer an elegant vertical visual throughout the garden. You may remove any browned and dry leaves, though. Keep the Iris beds clean and free of weeds. Well-established Iris plants are drought tolerant. Newly planted Iris, though, do require a good long drink approximately every 7 to 10 days if the weather is very dry. Reblooming Iris also prefer irrigation between the spring bloom and summer/autumn re-bloom times. We recommend an application of a low-nitrogen fertilizer (such as 6-10-10) approximately one month after blooms have finished. Superphosphate and bonemeal also work well as a fertilizer for Iris.
Reblooming Iris: Just can’t get enough! Ooo!
Imagine yourself next summer, the heat of July warming your face as you gaze across your garden, colorful perennials dot the landscape… but you’re thinking back to springtime, May, when your glorious Iris were in full bloom. Nothing compares… But wait! Consider this: a second bloom season for Iris. Yes, reblooming Iris hold the promise of reliving the spring time bloom in the middle of summer!
Scanning the summer garden, speckled with the hues of phlox, cone flowers, daisies, lilies and the like, my heart skips a beat as I catch sight of a Tall Bearded Iris! A delightful surprise in the midst of the late summer bloomers. It’s one thing to take in the wash of color in a garden full of Iris at peak bloom in May; it’s quite another to find a lone flag, so seemingly out of time and place, among the rudbekia!
As with any gift of nature, there are caveats. Reblooming Iris, while so satisfying when they produce bloom in July, August, September and even into October, do not bloom on command. Their remontancy is dependent upon multiple factors: soil conditions, weather, gardening practices, to name a few. Rebloomers need extra fertilizing (low in nitrogen, 5-10-10) and water compared to their single-bloom cousins. The plant’s own genetics, of course, play a strong role as well. Varieties of Iris that rebloom consistently here in the Willamette Valley (here is a partial list) may exhibit different behavior in other locales. Just as there are varieties of Iris that do not bloom every year in the spring bloom season, so is the case with summer re-bloom.
But when it all comes together… Wow! These bonus blossoms just scream to be united with pink and red lilies, flounces of phlox, fist-fulls of Black Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) — anything blooming nearby. Rich summer bouquets can take shape before your eyes. Here are several of my favorites from a recent jaunt through the garden.
Pictured above a charming reblooming Dwarf Iris, Autumn Jester, cozies up to its little companion daisy. Wouldn’t this be lovely blooming among the snapdragons and pansies along a low summer border? Below, the pinks pack a punch. Peggy Sue mixes with the lovely lilies and echinacea for a sight so divine.
Pure As Gold mixes with Immortality, above, continuing the white-yellow theme carried by the daisies. The hosta leaf and blue thistles provide pleasing contrast to the bunch. “Cowslip” sneaks in a bit of summer informality….
Ominous Stranger, above, blends harmoniously with sprigs of cedar and blue thistles. Below, October Sky loves the phlox, verbena and hosta. Best Bet contrasts with rudbeckia.
Selecting the varieties of reblooming Iris for your garden which will be successful in your area of the country (or the world), is a matter of trial and error. The rebloom is a bonus. At the very least, you will enjoy one season of bloom in the springtime. Give it a try!
The Reblooming Iris Society offers a plethora of information on the development and care of Iris that rebloom. Start with their page offering tips for growing rebloomers, then explore the greater site for more information.
Have you planted reblooming Iris in your garden? Tell us about your trials, errors and successes. Please include your geographic area as well.
P.S. And speaking of geographic area, take a look at our Iris order date cut-off map for information on the last date to order Iris to ship to your neck of the woods.
Saving Overgrown Iris
Let’s say a friend told you about this patch of once-lovely Iris which has become completely engulfed by grass… (or maybe that friend is you…) You tell your “friend” that her situation reminds you of something you once read by Sara Stein*: “I appreciate the misunderstanding I have had with Nature over my perennial border. I think it is a flower garden; she thinks it is a meadow lacking grass, and tries to correct the error.”
July, August and, in some areas, September, is the time to assess the situation in your Bearded Iris garden, and rectify the misunderstanding you might have with Nature. If it’s been a few years (say three to five) since you planted your Iris, it is likely that the clusters have grown, and over-grown, themselves into a large mass of rhizomes 12 to 24 inches wide. If you are (or know of) that friend described above, fear not. If you see foliage above the blanket of grass, the Iris can be saved! Read on.
Before you reach for the shovel, though, let’s review some tips on dividing and transplanting the new Iris babies.
Iris Identity: If you have your Iris labeled, you will want to label all of its babies. Prepare tags of some sort to help you keep track of what you are transplanting and where. If you haven’t labeled the Iris in your garden, then proceed unfettered by the bondage of labels….
Digging the clumps: Depending on how densely packed the Iris clump is, you may wish to dig up the entire mass and work on it out of the ground. In the case of the clumps overgrown with grass, you’re best bet is to dig up the whole shebang. Carefully pull the soil and grass away from the rhizomes and roots so that you can see what you’re dealing with. Take care to remove as many of the grass roots as possible. Once cleaned up, you will likely find that the mass of Iris resembles a tangle of fresh ginger, or small oblong potatoes, some of which will have fresh green foliage attached.
Separating the plants: The rhizomes with the foliage are the plants you will keep. Any rhizome which has no foliage is “spent”, and will not bloom again. It can be discarded. At this point, you can decide how many of these new plants you’d like to replant. Some of the new growth may yet be quite small, the size of a cherry. These are called “nubs”, and will have tiny green leaves. You can plant these, but expect possibly two years at least before you see any blooms.
To separate, carefully snap or slice the rhizomes at the junction between the old plant and the new growth. Take care to disentangle the roots so that the new plants retain their set of roots.
If the foliage on the new plant is very tall, you can trim it back to 6 inches to make transplanting easier.
Prepare soil for transplants: For the area where you intend to plant the new growth, dig up the soil 6 to 12 inches deep, remove weed sprouts, mix in some organic mulch or a low-nitrogen fertilizer (follow manufacturer’s recommendations for quantity and ratio) to give the soil a nutritional boost. Break up large clumps of soil and smooth out the area. Plant your new iris so that the roots are covered but the top of the rhizome is showing above the surface of the soil.
Water in: Water at the time of transplanting. Newly set plants need moisture to help their root systems become established. Specific watering requirements depend on your climate and soil, but keep in mind that deep watering at long intervals is better than more frequent, shallow watering. Once established, Iris normally don’t need to be watered except in arid areas. It is always better to underwater than over water. Too much water can induce rot.
What to do if you have more Iris shoots than you know what to do with: Consider donating the extra plants (labeled or unlabeled) to a nursing home, school, or community center in your area. You can also check with your neighbors to see if they’d like any of the offspring.
Getting ready to divide your Iris? Tell us what you do with the extras. We’d love to read your comments.
*Sara Stein, influential advocate for gardening with native plants, and author of “Noah’s Garden: Restoring the Ecology of Our Own Backyards” (Houghton Mifflin, 1993).
Summer Around the Gardens
July – that quintessential “summer” month. This middle month of summer seems to hold an abundance of potential… for projects, vacations, gardening, and camps. Don’t we find ourselves wondering how we could cram more into these 31 days? June is too early, and by August we already feel the end of summer.
July is a busy month around the gardens here as well. We go full-swing into our digging and shipping mode. The buildings are fitted with various conveyor belts for sorting, cleaning, tagging and packing the Iris for delivery to retail and wholesale customers. The fields of Iris, waves of colorful bloom just a month ago, now yield themselves to the crews and diggers. Trucks come and go, loaded with thousands of orders of Iris.
This year is an exciting year for our display garden. We replant our gardens every three to five years. This summer, in preparation for the American Iris Society convention to be held up the road in Portland in May 2015, we will completely replant our 10-acre display garden. Our dedicated, and very hard-working, crew seems to make light work of this tremendous task!
If you are also feeling ambitious and energetic this middle-month of summer, you may also wish to revamp your Iris beds. Perhaps it’s time to divide the older clumps of bearded Iris, expand their colorful glory through replanting the new growth in more sunny corners of the garden – or by sharing them with friends and neighbors to plant in their gardens. Here’s an idea: if you find yourself with an abundance of new growth from your Iris clumps, consider donating them to a nursing home, school, or community center; plant them along the edge of a community garden, or check with your city’s parks and rec department about planting them in your local city park.
We offer detailed and illustrated instructions on thinning and replanting Iris clumps on the “How to Grow & Care for Iris” pages of our website. Take a look at the monthly Iris care guides while you’re there.
Whether planting new Iris or thinning old clumps, you’ll want to have a good fertilizer on hand. Bonemeal and super-phosphate (available at your local garden center) are both good choices. A fertilizer low in nitrogen (5-10-10 or 6-10-10) is also a good option. We offer a one-pound bag of specially formulated Iris food on our website.
Whether choosing to “get ‘er done” or put your feet up for a well-deserved break this July, we wish you a pleasant and memorable summer.
P.S. There’s still time to order for planting Iris this summer. Check out our Summer Sale!
Caring For Iris Through the Winter
While we here in the NW seem to have more than our fair share of rain throughout the winter, we realize that some parts of the US have not been receiving their usual amount of moisture this fall and winter. Although bearded Iris are resilient, and typically drought tolerant once established, newly planted Iris do require some regular moisture in order to get established. A recent posting on the American Iris Society blog page, World of Irises, covers the topic of drought and Iris very nicely. Rather than reinvent the wheel, we direct our readers to that post. If you don’t already, you might consider following that blog.
As the temperatures drop below freezing, you can mound a winter protection around your Irises. We recommend straw, evergreen branches or leaves. The key with winter protection is to remove it when the weather begins to warm again in the spring. Winter protection can help prevent heaving out the rhizomes caused by repeated freezing and thawing that happens throughout the winter.
We wish all of you a happy, healthy holiday season and prosperous and healthy new year!
May you find peace and fulfillment in gardening! The Schreiner Family
P.S. Gift Certificates! Although you can’t send Iris to your loved ones and favorite gardeners in December, you can send them a gift certificate for Schreiner’s Iris Gardens now and all throughout the year! To be sure your Gift Certificates arrive on time, order early.
Ideal Companions for Your Bearded Iris Beds
The practice of “Companion Planting”, a centuries-old gardening tradition, follows the theory that different plant species, planted close together, assist each other with nutrient production and absorption, controlling pests, attracting pollinators, and other factors necessary for their full productivity. This practice is clearly beneficial in flower gardens as well. When planning your beds, consider water conservation as well as overall aesthetic design.
Ray Schreiner, quintessential plant-lover, has designed the Display Gardens at Schreiner’s Iris Gardens with these companion planting principles in mind. Some of his choices fix nitrogen in the soil, others attract butterflies and other pollinators, some work to control weeds, and some are chosen simply for aesthetic appeal.
Ray plants the Display Gardens with a wide range of sun-loving as well as shade-dwelling flowers. He chooses mainly perennials, but adds some annuals for a quick splash of color along the borders. These give the Iris gardens a balanced feel with their varied heights, colors and shapes, and lengthen the display of blooms from early Spring into late Fall. Some of the companion plants our guests can find in the garden during bloom season include Alliums, Peonies, Icelandic and Oriental Poppies, Delphiniums and, of course, the ubiquitous Lupine. Ray plants flowering trees and shrubs such as Dogwoods, Magnolias, Birch, Willow, Heather and Rhododendrons to round out the park-like setting. Shasta Daisies, Rudbeckia, Reblooming Iris, and Clematis brighten the summer gardens here. “I like to have color all year round,” says Ray. “Too bad there aren’t a few more seasons in the year.”
Some tips to keep in mind as you choose your companion plants:
Plant in zones: Group together plants with similar light and water requirements. Choose a variety of plants with different heights, colors and textures to create interest and beauty.
Choose drought-tolerant perennials, such as: Day Lily, Echinacea, Lavender, Sedum, Gaillardia, Rudbeckia, Phlox, to name only a few. To enhance your drought-tolerant Iris beds, choose perennials that require full sun and that bloom around the same time. Choose other perennials, with low-water needs, to continue the display of color throughout the year.