Monday, April 27, 2020

Tackling Overgrown Pacific Iris Patches

By Kathleen Sayce, April 26, 2020

What’s a body to do when the stay-at-home order will last another few weeks of spring, and there’s only so much cleaning and sorting inside my house a body can stand? 

The answer is:  Dig out that garden bed I’ve been promising to redo for at least five years! 
Iris douglasiana Lobster Creek, a wild selection given to me by Kareen Sturgeon
The basic plan was to remove two huge overgrown rhododendrons, one of which tip-rooted into seven plants, move a pillar rose to a new position—to clear the view from a window for better bird watching, remove all the plants along one side of the bed and into it more than four feet, so the low wall enclosing it could be moved. Then replant.

There's an iris in there somewhere, among bluebells (Hyacinthoides x massartina, Scilloideae) and fringecups (Tellima grandiflora, Saxifragaceae) 

The patch of rhodies came out first, then the rose, protective cage (deer, don't ask!) and its pole were moved. Plants were dug out of the wall-moving area, and either potted up temporarily, or gifted on. 

A gardener in the neighborhood was pleased to get >90 starts of PCI ‘Cape Ferrello’ along with dozens of other odds and ends for a summer garden sale, hopefully in July. Still, I had many more plants in pots than were planned on, so stay-at-home order or not, there was a trip to a local nursery for potting soil and a hunt round my garden shed for gallon pots. Then an email out to gardening friends, begging for more pots. . .

After carefully removing soil, there were ample fresh white roots to be seen,
so I got out my shovel, and lifted one large shovelful of fans and rhizomes.

At last only the largest, single-stem old rhodie remained. I dug around it, using a new shovel, all metal, with a stout flange for feet, so strong that I can probably bend it, but unlike several former shovels, cannot break the handle. [I have been waiting for this shovel all my life!] Much digging with said shovel over several days as mounds of soil grew to both sides. Then clipping roots. Digging with a hand trowel and lifting soil into a bucket. More root clipping. Finally, I could rock the root mass. 

Free of soil, the mass of rhizomes can be inspected, and trimmed.
I cut off the older portions of rhizomes, leaving the last 1-2 years with fresh white roots.

Eventually I rocked it enough to break free the lower roots—which is when I realized that to get it out of the bed, it would have to pass over a large patch of Mexican fleabane (Erigeron karvinskianus, Asteraceae) and my only patch of Iris douglasiana 'Lobster Creek'. I’ve been planning to start new patches of this iris for years, spreading it around my garden, but you know how far those intentions went, until this spring. 

Consultation with adorable spouse ensued. I backfilled the hole with the piles of soil, rocking the root mass ever higher on the fill, until it was only 6 inches below the bed surface, lifted up more than a foot. Adorable spouse found ropes and a sturdy board, roped the root mass to it, and together we lifted it out of the bed and over the irises onto the lawn. Slick!

From one shovelful, 21 fans, trimmed and ready to replant

Back to irises:  
Iris douglasiana lives along the coast from south central California to southern Oregon. This particular wild-grown selection came to me years ago from a friend in the McMinnville area southwest of Portland, OR. It has typical species-type lavender flowers, and striking dark evergreen leaves. It’s vigorous in the garden and holds its own with fringecups and other plants. The foliage is gorgeous on its own. 

Some of the pots of fans. Planted 3-4 starts per pot,
plan on having them 
all in the ground by fall 

I dug out along one side of the patch, removed the bluebell bulbs. Dug out the fringecups, which seed all over the garden and give year round color to the bed with their light green leaves. I dug one shovelful of PCI Lobster Creek from the patch. More than twenty fans trimmed and planted into seven pots later, no matter how flat the remaining patch is smashed, some will survive. I estimate another sixty starts remain in the patch. [I’ll be calling my friend to come get the rest.] 

Once the wall is moved, I will plant a mix of Pacifica irises, fleabanes, Sisyrinchium, and other perennials in the newly cleared bed. That takes care of the north fifteen feet. Only forty more feet to go. . . 

Monday, April 20, 2020

New Zealand Iris Society and its Awards

By Maggie Asplet

Normally, at this time of the year I am preparing for my journey to Mid America Iris Garden.  Not so this year.  At this very challenging time of our world pandemic of Covid 19, I decided to write about the Awards (some of them anyway) and who were the lucky recipients at our Convention in 2019.

Jean Stevens Writer's Award
This was first awarded in 2018. The Jean Stevens Memorial Award is a give away award.
To be eligible you must be a member of the New Zealand Iris Society; write an interesting informative article in any of the three New Zealand Iris Society Bulletins published in a current year; this could also be for someone who has written long term for the bulletin and the award will be judged by the editor of the Bulletin.

  Gwenda Harris (seated) was awarded the Jean Stevens Writer's Award from President Marilyn Fleming.  This was for Gwenda's outstanding article - Classification of Irises, published in the June 2019 bulletin.  photo courtesy of Heather & Bernard Pryor

South Canterbury Species Trophy 
This trophy consists of prints of Iris prismatica, I. stolonifera and I. reichenbachii and gifted to the South Canterbury Iris Group. The trophy can be awarded annually to the grower of the most interesting iris species (must be named) seen in a NZ Iris Society member's garden and is selected by participants' ballot.  It can either be garden or pot grown.

Pat McFadden holding her award which had been presented by Marilyn Fleming (President)
photo courtesy of Jim Gilligan

Anne Blanco White 'Festival Crown' Plate
This is a special edition plate marking the 70th anniversary of the British Iris Society. The Society's plate was presented at the 1992 Nelson Convention by Anne Blanco White.  The mounted plate is awarded annually to a member for meritorious service to NZ Iris Society.  Groups or individual members may nominate a member they think fits the criterion, and a written citation in support of the nomination should be forwarded to the President or Secretary.

Awarded to the editor of our wonderful bulletin -  Bernard Pryor, OAM
photo courtesy of Heather Pryor

Dorothy McLachlan Award
This is a silver cup, presented by the late Dorothy McLachlan and was first awarded in 1991 for the best New Zealand bred, cut iris bloom or stem seen at an annual Convention.  It may be any type of iris bloom or stem.  Three judges are appointed to carry out the judging.  If the award winning cultivar is a seedling, it is recommended that the whole plant then be sent to the relevant Trial Garden.

Marilyn Rathgen (left) was presented with the Dorothy McLachlan Award for her MTB seedling 1B-4-C
photos courtesy of Heather & Bernard Pryor

The Cook Photographic Award
This award is sponsored by Darlene and the late Owen Cook, and is granted for excellence of photographs of NZ bred and registered irises.  Entries are to be photographed by a financial member of the society.  Photos may be garden shots or show bench shots.  There is no requirement for the whole plant to be photographed.  

Beth Conrad was awarded the trophy for her photo of 'Mimic' and she was also awarded Highly Commended for 'Richmond White'.
photo courtesy of Heather & Bernard Pryor

Left is 'Mimic' (winner) and right is 'Richmond White' (highly commended)
photos courtesy of Beth Conrad

The President's Award
This award is presented by the Society's president, to a person whom they feel has contributed to the society as a whole.
2019 saw Stephanie Boot (right) being awarded with this trophy.

The President's Award was presented to Stephanie Boot (right).  
photos courtesy of Heather & Bernard Pryor

The Begg Shield for NZ Bred Irises (pogon)
The Begg Shield was present to the Society in 1975 by Mr James Begg of Oamaru.  This shield is awarded annually to a person with the most outstanding New Zealand bred iris seen at a convention.
The competition is for Tall Bearded Irises only.  The irises to be judged must be bred by the hybridiser living at the time of judging and are ineligible for future Begg Shields if it has won previously.  
Three judges are appointed to carry out the judging.  Judging will be to an HM (Honourable Mention) level (70) points.  Up to two rhizomes of the winning iris will be sent to the Trial Garden where it will be grown on for the first year and judged for an AM (Award of Merit) in its final year.

The winning iris for 2019 was bred by Brian Townsend.
photo courtesy of Brian Townsend

There are a number of other awards, however they were not presented in 2019.

To my friends in America and around the world, please stay well and stay safe.  Hopefully,  I'll be able to travel again in 2021.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Planting Iris Seeds

By Hooker T. Nichols

Planting iris seeds in our warm Texas climate occurs this time of the year for me.  Usually we have very mild winters in North Texas.  I have found that if I plant the seeds either in the ground or in one-gallon black plastic pots and the seeds germinate before mid-January and we have a cold snap where the temperatures dip into the single digits, they baby iris will die from the extreme cold.

Hooker getting ready to plant his iris seeds.
The seeds have been air-dried after ripening on the iris stalks.  Next, I place the seeds in the miniature plastic bead bags and freeze them until I plant (typically now).  The soil in the pots is comprised of landscape mix topped off with a good potting mix (such as Miracle Grow).  The seeds are planted 1 inch deep.  The soil is kept moist.  The seeds start germinating around mid-March.  When the baby irises reach 3 inches in height and the danger of freezes is past, they are transplanted into the garden with spacing being approximately 4-5 inches apart.  I get 50 to 75% bloom the following spring.  This is a tried and true method for me.

Who knows what will come from the seeds?

Thursday, April 9, 2020

IRISES: The Bulletin of the AIS - Spring 2020 Edition

By Andi Rivarola

A warm welcome to those who are seeing IRISES, the Bulletin of The American Iris Society for the first time. If you are a member of The American Iris Society I hope you enjoy this new issue.

The Spring 2020 issue of the AIS Bulletin will be available online soon, accessible via the Emembers section of the AIS website. The print copy has been mailed via the U.S. Post Office. On the cover, a lovely iris garden from New Zealand, and also this issue comes with Part 2 of the Centennial Supplement. Parts 3 and 4 will be published later in 2020.

Note: to access this area of the website you must have a current AIS Emembership. (AIS Emembership is separate from the normal AIS membership.) Please see the Electronic Membership Information area of the AIS website for more details.

What's in this issue? See below:

A list of the 2019 Honorary Awards Recipients on pages 16 — 19, compiled by Gary White.

A reprint from our own blog on pages 20 —22, Italian Irises, Great at Last!

A very fitting article about Why Coronavirus is a Bigger Deal than the Seasonal Flu by Dr. John Heard on page 23.

My own article about my trip to gorgeous New Zealand called New Zealand, New Zealanders and Irises on pages 26 — 31.

If you're share your images for any purpose with AIS, please read About Image Requirements with Registrations, by no other than Neil Houghton on pages 32 — 39.

On pages 40 and 41, please don't miss Kathy Chilton's article, Growing Irises in Hot, Dry Climates.

Bruce Filardi writes about International News on page 43.

Lastly, a beautiful image of TB iris 'Outside The Lines' by our dear friend Roger Duncan on the back cover.

There's a lot more to see and read in this edition of IRISES, either in digital or print formats.

Not a member of The American Iris Society? Please see our website for information about becoming one:

Happy Gardening!

Monday, April 6, 2020

Black is Dramatic!

By Mel Schiller

There is nothing more alluring and mysterious than a clump of black iris. Hearing the gasps from garden visitors as they gaze in disbelief upon the sultry beauty and pure elegance of these dark magical blooms, without a doubt the black iris are a firm favourite in our garden. Here are the top 8 black Tall Bearded Iris grown at Smokin Heights.

'Coal Face' (Grosvenor 2010)
Coming in at number eight is 'Coal Face,' hybridized by Graeme Grosvenor here in Australia. A fast and easy growing variety although it is not as dark as we would like.

'Black Is Black' (Schreiner 2010)
Seventh Place is 'Black Is Black,' hybridized by Schreiner's. Stunning depth of colour but not the fastest of growers, it also has purple based foliage.

'Obsidian' (M. Smith 2002)
In sixth place is 'Obsidian,' hybridized by Marky Smith. One of the first 'black' Iris that we grew, it will always have a spot in our garden!

'Visigoth' (M. Smith 2013)
Placing fifth is 'Visigoth,' another iris hybridized by Marky Smith. A newer variety here in Australia, it has thoroughly impressed us with its growth habits and depth of colour in the blooms.

Unfortunately there are no true black Iris on the market today, they will always have a blue, purple or even red undertone to the bloom. However, with extensive hybridizing we hope to achieve a true black Iris in the future.

'All Night Long' (Duncan 2005)
Beginning the top four we have 'All Night Long,' hybridized by the late Roger Duncan. One of our favourites in this colour class, it is a late bloomer that can handle the heat without burning towards the end of our iris season.

'Black Lipstick' (Keppel 2016)
In third place is 'Black Lipstick,' hybridized by Keith Keppel. It is very good parent that has given us some good seedlings. Amazing growth and bloom habits.

'Raven Girl' (Schreiner 2008)
Placing second is 'Raven Girl,' hybridized by Schreiner's, one of the best black Iris on the market. This variety has the best colour saturation of any black iris. This would be number one if it grew a bit quicker.

'Here Comes The Night' (Schreiner 2009)
And placing first is 'Here Comes The Night,' another hybridized by Schreiner's. Amazing growth and blooms habits coupled with depth of colour makes it a winning combination. Highly recommended for the lovers of black iris!

F79-1: (Raven Girl X Visigoth)
Finally we would like to show a sneak peak of one of our black seedlings currently under evaluation. This variety is looking very promising with great growth and bloom habits and gorgeous depth of colour.

Black iris create such a dramatic effect and really are a must have in the garden. Of course as with any variety of Bearded Iris some varieties grow better than others. We much prefer to grow the early to mid season bloom varieties as our hot scorching sun can scald and burn the bud in the socket before the bloom has a chance to open. Bailey and myself are working on black iris in our hybridizing efforts and of course black is Mel's favourite colour.....

We sincerely hope everyone keeps safe and healthy in these difficult times. Gardening is music to the soul--get out and enjoy it!