Monday, November 28, 2016

One Year Later: A Brief Report

By Vanessa Spady
As much as I adore Spring, when iris really have their season, I enjoy the anticipation and excitement of Fall, watching and waiting for rebloomers to appear and show off their special genes. Inspecting my garden, I am surprised and delighted by which blooms are flagrantly coloring my otherwise drab fall landscape, and also checking my database to see which rebloomers are lazily missing their fall display, opting instead to nap through the seasons without the parade and dazzle. Of course I’m playing a guessing game why some rebloomers are in full riot and others...not so much. Location, watering throughout the year, when and how much fertilizing, what kind of bed, and how much direct daylight are variables at play, so it will of course remain something of a mystery. The flowers in bloom keep me excited for the big event in Spring, and the enigmatic sleepers keep my problem-solving mind engaged in the mystery. What’s not to love?

As for the garden overall, somehow a year has elapsed since Chris and I began our project of raised beds, kiddie pool beds, and re-purposed tire beds. It was a hot, dry year, during which I blithely purchased a coffee-house and bakery, so I didn’t chronicle the progress and processes of each kind of bed with the same detail I gave to, say, our hybridizing. But, I do have a report of how things went, which ideas worked, which need tweaking and which I really loved. For the sake of accuracy, I am showing you the beds as they are, warts and all. I am clearly behind in my weeding and clean up, so you don't need to remind me, I know, I know!

The kiddie pools, well, those were the most mixed results of the group. I loved that they were portable, and off the ground. We did have moisture control issues with them, though. A bit too wet when it was rainy (which we mostly resolved with more drainage holes), and hard to keep evenly (and adequately) watered with drip alone during the hot months. I lost 40% of the rhizomes in the one set of kiddie pools. The other set had a different kind of drip, and had more regular watering, and grew 700% more weeds, but I think I only lost two out of 40 rhizomes from those pools. I will try the pools again, adjusting the type of soil, the drip emitters themselves, and the amount and frequency of watering… maybe we can get better results from all the pools this year.

This bed started out with a few more rhizomes than we have now, but we caught that it wasn't getting enough water pretty early on. Now we just have to watch for it getting soggy in heavy rain. Please disregard all the weeds. They are on my to-do list, I promise.

The raised beds were easy and successful, but we did not treat the wood for fear that any sealants/paints used to preserve the wood would emit harmful gasses into the soil and damage the roots or rhizomes. That means I may only get one more year out of the beds before the wood falls apart. The raised beds performed brilliantly, with good drainage and the roots seemingly remained cool. The performance from those beds was excellent.

The raised beds were greatly successful, and when we add more this year, we will be using more amendments. Once again, please do not let the weeds distract you from the iris.

To my surprise, the painted tires made fantastic beds. Although we only put two or three rhizomes in each tire, they all did quite well, and I will have to separate all of them this year. So, an upside is their health and performance, and a downside is that you can only fit a few rhizomes in, and they need to be separated yearly. One other reason I really like the tires is that I can say “everything in this tire is ____ rhizome” and not worry that my Revere crept into the Huckleberry Fudge. No growing from one zone into another. Plus, for creative types, you can paint the tires fun colors. I don’t simply because I want the blooms to be the most colorful feature in the garden. (And I chose a light color to reduce the heat to the tire itself.)

Despite heavy use of Preen, the weeds came in this Fall with gusto. Turns out everything grows well in the tires. We will definitely do more tires this year!

I will be planting my 400+ new rhizomes differently than this first batch. I am going to add more amendments to keep the soil softer (even this good loamy soil gets hard in our extreme summer heat), and instead of planting by bloom season (left to right, early, mid, and late blooms), I am planting by colors. Whole beds of whites, next to beds of pale yellows, followed by beds of bright yellows… I am excited to see if we can create a panorama of color throughout the season.

We also will be adding another 20 or so raised beds for the seeds from our 2016 hybridizing. We ended up with well over 1400 seeds, and even limiting ourselves to 16 seeds planted per pod, it is going to be a significant undertaking. They’re all happily in their soup containers in our project refrigerator. Mid-January, we will start their planting. That leaves me how long to get my database updated and ready? Oh boy, I’d better get going!

In the meantime, back outside I go, to see my rebloomers. The promise they make for an amazing Spring is my inspiration to keep going, even when it gets cold and windy. What can I say, I’m a sucker for the big show!

And, because I love sharing photos, here are some current rebloomers!

'Orange Juice' (Michael Sutton, R. 2009). Seedling #R-687-A. TB, 33" (84 cm). Midseason bloom and rebloom. Standads orange flushed pink at midribs; style arms orange; falls creamy orange, white area at end of angering beards; pronounced sweet fragrance. 'Return Address' X 'Tropical Delight'. Sutton 2010.

'For Your Love' (Larry Lauer, R. 2002). Seedling #365-2. IB, 18" (46 cm), Early midseason bloom. Ruffled white with light blue cast; style arms light blue; beards yellow with white end and base; pronounced sweet fragrance. 'Chubby Cheeks' X 'Pacific Destiny'. Lauer 2002.

'Chatter' (Joseph Ghio, R. 1992). Sdlg. 88-11C. TB, 34" (86 cm), Early to Midseason bloom. Standards yellow orange overlaid fuchsia rose; Falls yellow orange ground, fuchsia rose sanding at edge; beards burnt tangerine. ('Romanticist' x 82-113G, 'Chuckles' sib) X 'Storyline'. Bay View 1993.

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