Marianne Unruh

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INTERESTING THINGS I HAVE LEARNED ABOUT IRIS IN MY GARDEN

IRIS RHYSOMES GROWS NEW ROOTS EVERY YEAR

THE MOTHER RHYSOME ONLY BLOOMS ONE TIME. SHE MAKES BABIES WHO BLOOM THEN BECOME A MOTHER.  THE MOTHER CAN MAKE BABIES FOR YEARS, BUT WHEN THERE ARE MORE MOTHERS THAN NEW SHOOTS YOUR PLANT WILL NOT BLOOM LIKE IT SHOULD. TIME TO DIVIDE.

THE OLD RHYSOMES GATHER IN THE MIDDLE OF THE PLANT AND THEN YOU GET VERY LITTLE BLOOM. I LIKE TO TAKE THEM OUT AFTER A FEW YEARS TO ENCOURAGE NEW GROWTH IN THERE.

IRIS LIKE TO BE EXPOSED IN THE SUMMER BUT COVERED ABOUT 1" IN THE WINTER

I TAKE ALL THE GREEN LEAVES OFF WHEN THEY START TO CURL AT THE BOTTOM OF THE RHYSOME, USUALLY A FEW WEEKS AFTER BLOOM. THIS USUALLY MEANS NEW BABIES ARE STARTING TO GROW. THIS LETS IN LOTS OF AIR AND LIGHT TO THE PLANT.

THE DIRT AROUND THE IRIS LIKES TO BE FLUFFED AROUND THE PLANT, EXPECIALLY IN THE SPING. YOU CAN SEE MAJOR GROWTH AFTER YOU DO THAT. IT LETS AIR INTO THE SOIL AND YOU CAN UNCOVER THE DIRT THAT WAS COVERING THE RHYSOME FROM THE WINTER.

WHEN MY PLANTS MATURE I TAKE OUT EVERY OTHER RHYSOME OUT SO THE PLANT HAS ROOM TO BREATH. I LIKE ABOUT 8 RHYSOMES TO EACH PLANT. IT MAKES A NICE SHOW, IS A NICE SIZE AND IT IS CLEAN LOOKING AND HEALTHY. THAT PLANT WILL ALWAYS BE THE SAME BECAUSE I ALWAYS TAKE OUT THE OLD AND LET THE NEW TAKE OVER. EASY TO MAINTAIN A HEALTHY PLANT.

IF YOU HAVE A LARGE PLANT THAT IS OUT OF CONTROL I WOULD CUT IT IN HALF AND REMOVE HALF, LEAVING THE OTHER HALF IN THE GROUND. THEN I WOULD USE A KNIFE TO CUT OUT ANY SMALL RHYSOMES AND START TO SHAPE WHAT YOU HAVE LEFT. I WOULD LEAVE ABOUT 4 REALLY NICE RHYSOMES, IF YOU CAN IN A BOX SHAPE. THAT WAY YOU WILL HAVE A NICE BLOOM NEXT YEAR, YOUR PLANT WILL HAVE ROOM TO BREATH AND GROW. IF YOU DIG THE WHOLE PLANT UP AND YOU JUST PLANT ONE RHYSOME YOU WILL HAVE TO WAIT A FEW YEARS TO GET A NICE SHOWING, THIS WAY NEXT YEAR IT WILL BE NICE. YOU CAN USE THE OTHER HALF TO START ANOTHER NEW PLANT FOR ANOTHER LOCATION.

I CUT MY IRIS DOWN TO 4" NEAR THE END OCTOBER. THIS IS A CLEAN METHOD BECAUSE IN THE SPRING THERE IS NOT DEAD LEAVES TO SET ON THE RHYSOME IN THE DAMP SPRING.

I DEAD HEAD RIGHT TO THE BASE OF THE STALK, VERY OFTEN ROT SETS IN AT THAT SPOT. I DON'T CUT THE LEAVES NOW.

IF YOU SEE ROT, CLEAN IT OFF WITH A KNIFE, SPOON OR WHAT EVER, WASH IT WITH YOUR HOSE ON FULL SPRAY AND AFTER A FEW MINUTES AFTER THE WATER GOES AWAY, SPRINKLE COMET CLEANSER, THE BLEACH KIND ON IT AND COVER IT ALL UP WITH THE COMET. IF IT IS BAD AND YOU HAVE TO DIG THE WHOLE PLANT UP I CLEAN IT ALL WITH THE HOSE AND REMOVE ALL THE ROT. I THEM SOAK THE PLANT IN A 10-1 BLEACH SOLUTION FOR 10 MINUTES OR SO,(UNLESS YOU FORGET FOR AN HOUR OR MORE) OPPS, LET IT AIR DRY AND REPLANT IT.  KEEP AN EYE ON IT UNTIL IT STARTS TO ROOT. I HAVE SAVED MANY FROM DEATH.

IF YOU IRIS START TO LOOK LIKE DAY LILIES, NARROW SPINDLY LEAVES, YOU HAVE A PROBLEM, GO LOOK AT IT AND CHECK FOR ROT, AN ANT NEST, OR SOME OTHER BUG DAMAGE. SOLVE THE ISSUE AND FLUFF UP THE DIRT AROUND IT AND CHECK BACK IN A FEW DAYS, YOU SHOULD SEE A HUGE IMPROVEMENT.

I LIKE TO USE ROSE FOOD, 6-10-10. IRIS DON'T LIKE HIGH NITROGEN AND ROSE FOOD IS EASY TO COME BY. NITROGEN IS THE FIRST LETTER IN THE THREE NUMBER NAME. I FERTILIZE IN THE SPRING WHEN IT STARTS TO DRY UP AND I CAN SCRATCH IT INTO THE DIRT AROUND THE ROOTS. I ALSO PUT A SMALL AMOUND AROUNG THE PLANT AFTER IT BLOOMS TO REPLACE WHAT IT TOOK OUT FROM FLOWERING. WITH IRIS LESS IS BETTER THAN MORE. IF YOU HAVE A HEALTHY PLANT YOU DON'T NEED TO FERTILIZE.

I HAVE USED ALPALFA PELLETS FOR FERTILIZER AROUND MY PLANT IN OCTOBER FOR TWO YEARS IN A ROW. I PUT A YOGURT CONTAINER FULL AROUND EACH PLANT AND TRIED TO WORK THEM INTO THE SOIL, NOT AN EASY FEAT AS THEY HAVE MINDS OF THEIR OWN AND COME TO THE TOP. THEY SWELL UP WHEN THEY GET WET AND MAKE QUITE THE MESS, BUT THEY ARE EASY TO WORK INTO THE SOIL THEN. I HAVE HAD GOOD BLOOMS AND HEATHY PLANTS FOR A SMALL INVERSTMENT. THE BEST THING IS THE SOIL IS WAY BETTER, IT ADDES FIBER TO YOUR SOIL. ONE BAG OF PELLETS GOES A LONG WAY AND I THINK I PAID 12.00 A BAG.

ROT:  IT IS MUSHY, IT STINKS!  IT WILL LEAVE A BROWN MARK THAT HAS TO BE REMOVED FROM THE ROOT. ANY BROWN LEFT USUALLY WILL CONTINUE TO ROT. BLEACH KILLS ROT, BLEACH IS GOOD FOR IRIS.

YELLOW SPOTS:  CAUSED BY TOO MUCH WATER OR RAIN.  SPRAYING WITH COPPER HELPS, BUT TRY NOT TO OVERHEAD WATER.CUT OFF DAMAGED LEAVES AND YOU SHOULD HAVE A NICE PLANT IN NO TIME.

SCORCH: A NASTY PROBLEM THAT IS USUALLY NOTICED WHEN THE MIDDLE LEAF STARTS TO TURN BROWN FROM THE TOP DOWN.

WHEN YOU SEE THAT YOU MUST CUT THAT OFFENDING RHYSOME OUT OF YOUR PLANT AND GET IT OUT OF YOUR GARDEN. DON'T LET IT TOUCH OTHER LEAVES OR PLANTS. I HAVE TRIED CUTTING OFF THE LEAVES AT THE BASE BUT THAT IS ONLY 25% SUCESSFULL. CUTTING OUT THE RHYSOME THAT IS INFECTED IS THE ONLY WAY TO GO. WATERING IN THE HEAT, DROUGHT, AS IN LIGHT SHORT SPRINKLES,   POOR SOIL AND HOT DRY WEATHER SEEMS TO BE THE PERFECT STORM FOR THIS CONDITION. IT CAN TAKE OUT A LOT OF IRIS IF IT GOES UNCHECKED.

IF YOU WATER AROUND THE ROOT SYSTEM AND NOT THE LEAVES IT IS WAY BETTER. MOST OF MY PLANTS HAVE A "WATER CIRCLE MOAT" THAT I FILL UP WITH WATER AND LET IT SOAK IN OVER THE ROOT SYSTEM.

I USE ROUND UP TO KILL ALL THE GRASS FOR 4" AROUND EVERY BED AND ROW. IT IS LIKE A BROWN BORDER BETWEEN THE DIRT AND THE GRASS, ONCE GRASS GETS INTO THEM, NOW YOU HAVE WORK. ROUND UP ONLY WORKS ON GREEN LIVING THINGS, SO SPRAYING THE DIRT DOES NOTHING. ONCE A YEAR USUALLY DOES THE TRICK, BUT I KEEP AN EYE ON IT AND SPOT SPRAY WHEN NEEDED. ROUND UP DRIFT DOES NOT KILL THE IRIS, BUT YOUR BLOOM WILL BE UGLY. SPRAY CAREFULLY AND ON A CALM DAY IF YOU GO THIS ROUTE, AND OF COURSE BE CAREFUL IT IS NASTY STUFF, NOT TO BE USED LIGHTLY.

MARKERS,  VENITIAN BLINDS WORK GREAT, A PENCIL, A PAINT PEN I BUY AT LORDCO, OR EAR TAG PEN WORKS OK. I MARK BOTH SIDES OF THE LABEL AND HAVE ONE AWAY FROM THE SUN. MANY PEOPLE WRITE ON TOP AND BOTTOM, FRONT AND BACK TO KEEP THE NAMES ON THE LABEL. I WRITE A LIST OF THEM EVERY YEAR IN MY IRIS SCRIBBLER SO I HAVE A PAPER BACK UP. I ALSO WRITE WHO I GOT THEM FROM AND WHEN.

WATER: WHEN HOT EVERY DAY OR EVERY OTHER DAY,,,,,,30+ NEVER IN THE HEAT OF THE DAY.  ANY COOLER THEN ONCE A WEEK OR WHEN THEY START TO LOOK DRY. MINE ARE DARK GREEN AND SHINY WHEN THEY GET THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF WATER. NEWLY PLANTED ONES I WATER EVERY DAY UNTIL I SEE GROWTH THEN BACK OFF AND WATER AGAIN.      LET ALL IRIS  DRY OUT AND WATER DEEPLY AGAIN.  BETTER A BIG DRINK ONCE A WEEK THAN A SPRINKLE A BIT OFF AND ON.

CUTWORMS LOVE EATING IRIS AND IRIS FLOWERS, THEY LEAVE MUNCH MARKS ON THE LEAVES. IF YOU SEE THIS DIG AROUND THE BASE WITH YOUR CIPPERS AND FLUFF UP THE SOIL AND YOU WILL GET THEM. EARWIGS LIKE TO LIVE IN THE BASE LEAVES. THEY DON'T DO MUCH DAMAGE IN THERE BUT LAY TONS OF EGGS. EARWIG SPRAY IS THE ONLY THING THAT HAS WORKED FOR ME. SOAPY WATER DOES NOT DO MUCH FOR EARWIGS.

COLOR TERMS
 
Amoena - White standards and colored falls.
 
Bicolor - different colored standards and falls.
 
Bitone - standards and falls that are two shades of the same color.
 
Plicata - marked with stitching, stipples, dots or sanded patterns.
 
Self - standards and falls are the same color.
AWARDS
 
HC - Highly Commended
 
HM - Honorable Mention
 
AM - Award of Merit
 
Wister Medal - Highest award in the tall bearded class.  These iris must previously been awarded the Honorable Mention and the Award of Merit, which is a prerequisite for the Dykes Medal.
 
Dykes Medal - Biggest and best, is awarded to only one iris per year.
 
 
VARIETY OF IRIS
 
MDB - Miniature dwarf bearded iris have spikes which range in height of up to 8" tall.
 
SDB - Standards dwarf bearded iris range in height from 8 - 16" tall.
 
IB - Intermediate bearded iris range in height from 16 - 27 1/2" tall.
 
MTB - Miniature tall bearded iris range in height 16 - 27 1/2" tall.