Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Wednesday Workdays

A New Iris Bed

This week's project was one of those calendar-dependent ones.

Mother always said to move iris in July and we have been having a little cool off, so decided to strike while I could and get them moved. Originally, the only iris I had were several clumps of a big, beautiful pink bearded iris that Mother gave me 5 - 7 years ago for Christmas. Over the years the clumps have gotten larger and I have divided them and stuck them various places in the garden as accents, but last fall I decided that I wanted to add more, so I ordered six [any doubt in your mind what the next word will be?] purple plants. When they came, I just stuck them wherever there was a hole and forgot about them. Most of them bloomed this spring and were lovely, but at the same time they were blooming I realized that I had a big hole in the back border and that they would look better - and provide a better show - if they were all together. So this project was born.

Over the spring and summer I've weeded out, cleaned out and mulched, so the site was already in good shape - and there is already one plant living there near the center. I watered yesterday, so when I started digging I found excellent soil that was easy to work. Using a spading fork I dug up most of the clumps to move them into the new bed. Everything around this area will be bare when the iris bloom, and will then fill in to cover the scapes as they dry out. I put the tall pink plants toward the back, since they are so large and then mixed the rest in wherever I could.

I also carried plants to two neighbors - dug the holes and watered them in - and in one case traded plants. My next door neighbor has been offering me lavendar and white iris for years. Her's are all pale shades, while mine are dark, so I took her five plants and brought back five of hers. Have no idea exactly what colors I got, so it will be fun to see them in the spring.

Given the good shape the ground was in, my bed took only an hour to lay out and plant. Her's needed extensive weeding and all of the plants were buried too deep, so I ended up digging up half her bed and replanting it in order to not plant the new ones at a higher level than the old ones. Her bed took about two hours to do half. Next nice morning I get, I will go finish it.

The final bed looks pretty bare right now, but will flourish in the spring. If you are new to iris, here are the rules:

1) plant them at ground level. They like their "backs" (the rhizome) out of the soil, but their roots go deeper.

2) no mulch! They don't like to stand in water or be wet for long periods of time. At the top left and bottom right corners of the photo you can see where I pulled the mulch off this site. I will redistribute it elsewhere tomorrow.

3) cut the fans to 5-7 inches tall. When you move them you need to cut off the long scapes that will make them top heavy, so they will stay settled in the soil until the roots have a chance to re-grown and provide - well, roots. There is also a school of thought that says to set them so the fans are all turned in the same direction. I have done that in my neighbor's bed, but had trouble with the shapes of some of my clumps, so fudged a bit on the ones along the sides. I assume this has to do with wind protection, and to give all the rhizomes space to grow in the future.

They look a bit silly now, but come back in April and let's see how they do!


  1. I just love irises. I think they are such a delicate flower. I don't have any skill in the garden whatsoever...but I do appreciate when others do. Now that we rent in Georgia and own a townhouse in Kentucky, there is no gardening to be done...but maybe that's best. I would prefer to just sit back and watch you do your magic and live vicariously through you!

  2. Iris grow GREAT in Georgia. Want me to send you some??

  3. I have to admit to having zero green thumbs. I actually have some majorly overgrown day lillies which my MIL says I need to "split up." No idea how to though!