Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Newest Iris Bed

I've discussed at some length the great iris rescue of last year, where I pulled all my established tall bearded irises from their wet, sulky home, and replanted everybody into newly made, raised beds on the slope of our weeping bed.  What a transformation!  And while it was successful, it was almost too successful.  In my need to get the plants into new surroundings, I jammed them in just a little close to each other - well that and the fact that I only had so much time, room, lumber and topsoil in my budget last year.  So this spring everybody came back on the rebound and neighbours were crowding neighbours, and threatening intermarriage, or at least common-law cohabitation.

So over that past year I've been collecting recycled lumber where ever and whenever I could scavenge it.  My plan was to build three more long rows at the back of the house on another slope, where the weeds have thrived amid the few apple trees.

Here is the process from start to finish (well maybe not finished yet).

Lumber laid out, from south view

Same from north angle - perfect gentle slope for drainage

Two ends tacked together

Frames in place and screwed together.
At this point, I knew where the beds and paths would lie, so I sprayed the lawn with Roundup to kill the grass and weeds.  I use Roundup, very discriminately, but iris beds are a must - they are hard enough to keep clean of annual weeds, without fighting twitch grass and whatever other invasive perennials that decide to rear their ugly little heads.

Five truckloads of good topsoil - on the hottest days of the year.  Thank goodness the pool is right there.
I tried to get a good topsoil mix, ensuring it had some clay content.  Last year, I got primarily compost, which while very fertile, did not provide great anchorage for newly transplanted roots.

Red cedar mulch (the most expensive component of all).
Prior to adding mulch, I laid down a thick layer of newspapers, to prevent any weedseed coming up through.  I only put about an inch of mulch, because it is expensive and doesn't really aid in the growth of the plants, but it does make for a nice walking path, when admiring the flowers.

Some of the irises, moved from the established bed.  The left row is for some new ones.
When transplanting irises, make sure to get all the roots. I use a potato fork to lift irises.  I dig a depression in the new soil, sprinkle a couple of handfuls of bonemeal and then put the rhizomes directly on top.  I usually trim the irises into a fan shape; the leaves will brown and die back anyway.  I just find that cut down, they tend to stay in the ground a little better in wind.  Now I have had issues with little animals digging up the bonemeal - not really intent on harming my plants, but unearthing them, just the same.  So far I've done a few replants. 

There is great debate about planting depth with irises.  You are supposed to plant, so that the toes (rhizomes) are sticking out of the ground to allow the summer sun to bake them.  This aids is the production of flower buds the following year.  However I tend to bury the rhizomes a bit, as they anchor in better, and eventually find their way to the top, once established anyway.  I would rather sacrifice bloom the second season, and have them firmly established.  They will also frost heave that first winter, which is extremely hard on newly planted irises.

You will notice the top row is empty. A few shekels just crossed the border to  Schreiners Irises  in Oregon for some of their new introductions.  I went to get into breeding irises as a hobby, and we have sold rhizomes for several years, so I can always justify a little expenditure in that regard.

For those of you who are relative newcomers to my blog, you can check out some of our existing varieties at:  Early Irises , Mid-season Irises and  Late Season Irises

Last year's efforts, what the new beds should look like by this time next year.  The tall blue flower in the background is actually the missus, striding by.

And that is about all I have to say for today.

Musings and meanderings from the Musical Gardener.

1 comment:

Much appreciated comments from my friends: