THE IRIS GARDEN

It is often alleged that the Iris flowering period is too short but though few people realize it, it is quite possible to have irises blooming in the open for six months of the year. Iris stylosa for instance if planted in a warm sheltered spot, will be flowering gaily during December and January. Irises can be divided into the Bearded and Beardless types or as the real gardeners call them The Pogon and Apogon types; Pogon being from the Greek word meaning Beard.

If you are going to make an iris border, remember that the bulk of irises love sun and also insist on good drainage. They like to be planted at the correct season and they insist on good cultivation. On the whole the bearded irises do not like too much lime, though they often do quite well in areas known to be chalky. Their rhizomes or thick root stocks must be exposed so that the sun can warm them.

When planting them they should never be put completely below the surface of the ground. They like to be fed regularly with an organic fertilizer like fish manure or meat and bone meal 105 to 140 g/nr (3 to 4 oz per sq yd). Apply this in between and among the rhizomes or root stocks each February and give a similar quantity at planting time.

The Beardless or Apogon group have to be divided into large numbers of sections, i.e. the bulbous irises, the Stylosa group, the Spuria or moisture-loving group, the Kaempferi or Japanese group, the Evansia or Crested group and so on. Those who are going in for cultivating these types would do well to study a book which deals with irises only.

Bearded Irises

The normal iris garden is planted up with the bearded types. These vary in height, form and colour but flower very much at the same period. There are it is true the dwarf bearded irises that flower in March and April and the Intermediates that flower in April and early May, but the bulk of them flower at the end of May and beginning of June.

The colours have to be seen to be believed. There are blues and pinks, blends with yellow predominating; bronzes and browns, crimsons, pinks and lilac pinks, whites and creams pencilled with a darkjsr colour; very often the main petals are one colour and the falls another. The following are some of my favourites: Blue Rhythm, a cornflower blue; Tint o’ Tan, a buff and tan; New Snow, a pure white; Olakala, a deep golden yellow; Golden Fleece, a lemon and white; Great Lakes, a light blue; Paradise Pink; a flamingo pink; Garden Magic, a red with orange beard; Deep Black, a dark purple; Shah Jehan, a pale yellow and bronze edged; Staton Island, a gold and maroon; Watermeads, a grey white and deep blue; Chantelly, an orchid pink; Pace Maker, a dusky red; Marco Polo, a rose and crimson; Sable, a violet purple; Lady Mohr, a primrose and lavender; Proem, a blue shot old gold; Sweet Alibi, a creamy yellow; Especially You, the darkest yellow I know; Sandia, a shell pink; Stained Glass, a bronzy red.

Of course there are lots of others I could have mentioned but those I have given you are delightful to grow.

Dwarf Bearded Irises

In this group I can recommend a few: Orange Queen, 150 mm (6 in) high; Princess Louise 150 mm (6 in); I. Cosr-ulea, 150 mm (6 in); Moonlight, 100 mm (4 in); Blue Pygmy, 150 mm (6 in); Amber Queen, 225 mm (9 in).

Intermediate Bearded Irises

Here are one or two to include in your list: Aquamarine, a blue; Golden West, a yellow; Moonbeam, a yellow; Caesar’s Brother, a deep purple, 1 m (3 ft); Perry’s Blue, 1 m (3 ft); Emperor, a violet blue; Tropic Night, dark purple.

Propagation

Bearded irises are easy to divide. The outer rhizomes may be severed with one or two strong roots attached and these can be replanted in another position. It is always advisable in the case of large clumps to discard the inferior and older portions. The division should be done immediately after the plants have flowered. This means that they will be transplanted late in June and early in July, usually the driest period of the year. For this reason some gardeners wait until early September but if you do this the roots will have started to grow well and will only be injured.,

Planting the Border

Plant the border naturally so that you have five or six bearded irises of one particular variety in a group. Stick to the main principles advised in the planting of the herbaceous border. Drift the lighter blues into the darker ones and so on into the tall growing mauves at the back of the border. Keep the dwarfer irises to the front as a rule, but every now and then bring a taller one to the front to break up the monotony. Remember if you do go in for an iris border you must be prepared for it to be dull at certain seasons of the year. It can, however, be very beautiful indeed.

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