Monday, July 29, 2019

Location, Location, Location

By Bryce Williamson

Although I have been growing irises for over 55 years, I learn something new every iris season, or a lesson from the past is reinforced. In the last few years it is the term “location, location, location” and my discovery that it not only applies to real estate but also to gardening.

'Lavender Moonbeams'--Rick Tasco image
Two years ago, I decided to add three I. unguicularis, sometimes called the Algerian iris, to the garden, but my acquiring the plants coincided with my breaking six ribs and having to find a spot for the gardeners to plant them while I healed. The location was not ideal—my first lesson was that I should have found a location where I walk every day, not in a bed where I can go days without looking at the plants. The second thing I learned, and it is a recommendation for other gardeners who might like to grow these winter flowering irises, was find ‘Lavender Moonbeams’ because it flowered well.

Last year I made the decision to move the irises from the backyard into the front yard. No irises have grown there in seven or eight years and I expected them to do well in this new location. I had learned my lesson from the past and fertilized more heavily and add organic matter to the soil. That we did by moving 7 yards of potting soil mix into an area 600 square feet and a fifty pound bag of 15-15-15 was also spread over the area; however, I tend to over plant and as a result, I ran out of room and needed to plant my arilbreds in a different bed by the walk.

I had Reynaldo hand dig the bed with a bag of potting soil, but as the arilbreds grew and then bloomed, they bloomed poorly. My lesson was that they needed more fertilizer and one bag of potting soil for even that small area was not enough. I’ve also learned that my tendency to want to replant 4 rhizomes of a variety needs to be curbed—I may have to settle for 3 rhizomes! I will have to watch myself or the 1200 square foot area we are preparing in the backyard will not be enough.

I have always thought that where I bought plants and bulbs determined the quality of the product. A couple of years ago, I decided to add some reticulates to the garden and, for once, I got the location right—along the front of the sidewalk where I walk at least 6 times ago. I picked up a cheap bag of Iris reticulata ‘Harmony’ from Costco and went to the most expensive and best of Silicon Valley’s remaining nurseries—the dwindling number of plant nurseries here is another story—for other colors and into the ground they went. I’m on the second year and ‘Harmony’ has bloomed well, though I learned that I should have planted the bulbs more closely together, and it is thriving, but the more expensive plants have grown and only thrown up a couple of flowers. There does not seem to be a tight connection between price and quality of the bulbs.


Sometimes I get the location right by mistake. Every few years, I scrounge the nurseries for Dutch iris, buying a dozen of each variety that I can find. They do well the first years, but fail to naturalize for a variety of reason. The amazing exception is ‘Sky Wing’, a soft lavender-blue that loves it location and flowers every year. It is planted at the edge of the water line for the sprinkler and I thought that location would be a kiss of death, but it likes it there. A large rock anchors that corner of the rose bed and that may help with Sky Wing. (Note that there is a Siberian called Sky Wings too).


With more than fifty springs under my belt for growing irises, each year I learn something new.

The World of Irises is the official blog of The American Iris Society. Now in its 99th year, The American Iris Society exists to promote all types of irises. If you wish to comment on a post, you can do so at the end of the page and the author or the editors will reply. If you wish to learn more about The American Iris Society, follow the link.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...