By: Lisa Briggs | Thursday, August 27th
Spring isn’t the only when it’s socially acceptable to be a nosy neighbor. Many of us who work at the Bruce Company are avid gardeners and on the hunt, for a few perennials to pop into our gardens in the last days of summer. And now that a few of the spring-blooming bulbs are in the Garden Center, we’re all looking for a few open spots to pop in a handful of tulips, allium and daffodils. Or Iris. And this is the perfect time of year to plant the German Beardeds.
When you think of the Iris, you are most likely picturing a bearded variety. These glorious flowers grow from thickened root structures called rhizomes. The blossoms have upright petals called standards and downward-facing sepals, or falls. German Beardeds have the largest flowers of all Iris types and feature those wonderful fuzzy, caterpillar-like that we call beards. They require full sun with well-drained soil and bloom in mid to late May.
The Iris is named after the Greek goddess of the Rainbow. The three upright standards and three drooping sepals are symbols for faith, valor and wisdom. It seems appropriate that the Keeper of the Rainbow is the symbol for iris because they are available in every color of the rainbow. There are hundreds of bearded iris cultivars from pure icy white to an almost-black purple.
Many people worry about iris borers, but planting the rhizomes in well-drained soil and doing meticulous fall cleanup will help to keep your plants happy and the iris borer away. The planting depth for Iris is terribly important. Rhizomes are best planted very shallowly, with the hump of the rhizome left visible above the soil. Iris clumps of all types will eventually need to be divided or flower power may decrease.
To do this, cut the fans back to the height of about 6 inches and then carefully loosen the rhizomes from the soil in mid to late August. Check them over carefully, removing any softened sections. Then cut them into divisions, making sure to get a fan with each section. Dip the cut ends into a 10% bleach solution and let dry for a day or two. Once the cut ends are dried, plant the rhizome sections about a foot apart and water thoroughly.
We are enthralled by all of the flower shapes, captivated by their color and seduced by their fragrance. And in our heads, we know that flowers are simply a means to an end. But in our hearts, we wonder at the incredible variety of those shapes and colors and fragrances. Who could possibly choose just one?