Starting out in iris
Hi Holly and all,
Go look at the HIPS (Historic Iris Preservation
Society) website, www.worldiris.com select HIPS,
select "quick fix photos", to see if you like historic
Join your local iris society, typically meet once a
month. This time of year, local societies and Regions
have their rhizome sales -- check and see if you've
missed them or not, they're great sources for
inexpensive rhizomes, including quite recent ones.
Go LOOK at other people's iris gardens -- start with
your local society, see if anyone on list is near you.
HIPS has display gardens (we're one, and we're a tiny
little home garden, but you can see historics growing
here). AIS has display gardens.
Your "old purple" might be one with an ID, or not.
There are zillions of "this iris had a name but got
disconnected from the name" -- I call them UNKs or
UNKNOWNS, and collect them. If you're interested in
historics, this is neat to do -- Then to definitively
ID them, you guess at what might be, get a "this is
certified to be that guess" iris, and grow them side
by side. Many fine old iris also may have been bee
pods. Fine with me, they're still beautiful!
You CANNOT make an ID by just looking at photos.
Also, you'll train your eye as time goes on -- iris,
especially the old ones, have LOTS of detail, and
you'll initially not even be able to see most of it!
Then say three years later you'll go, wow, I used to
think X and Y looked alike, they're nothing alike!
Since your EYE has learned! See Phil Edinger's great
piece on ID-ing iris, on the HIPS site.
Don't forget to notice fragrance, lack of fragrance,
try to describe fragrance.
Send off for a bunch of catalogs, too late for most
for summer but you can get them for next spring.
Look at photos in iris-photos.
There are LOTS of smaller-than-Cooley's iris sources,
it's fun to get the catalogs from the small producers.
And, THEY could use our support, Cooley's (no offense
to the big ones!) doesn't really need our support, has
a very wide customer base including "just gardeners
not iris nuts" people.
How much dirt do you have available? (Can do a lot
even in pots on an apartment walkway!).
Label what you plant, AND make a garden map -- we grow
a lot in pots (mostly plastic 12", 14", 16" ones) and
-- a label for each iris
-- the pot has a number, written on pot and in a
-- in the garden log, we list what's planted in each
pot (also list your source, where you got each iris)
-- Take photos of the iris you grow
-- Don't plant similar iris next to each other! E.g.,
don't plant three ruffled purple iris. Plant instead,
a purple, a pink, a wacky one.
-- When planting, note whether an iris has pbf, purple
based foliage, or not. This can help in IDing if
there is any question later.
This might sound complicated, but it only takes five
minutes, and if aliens mess with your markers, or they
fade, that garden log is very useful!
Eventually you will buy iris from someone, and later
find out that the So-and-so you got wasn't So-and-so,
but you don't know what it is. (It's polite to let
the source know this). Keeping photos is useful here.
If you buy HELLO DARKNESS and get a yellow flower,
well there you go!
Buying iris from "iris-centered sources" and trading
with iris nuts, are the best. If I ever feel sorry
for some rhizomes I see at K-mart, I might get them
and give them away (it's a great project to give away
iris with a sheet on how to grow them, especially neat
to do this in low-income neighborhoods, since iris are
easy to grow and tough, especially the old ones).
But I will take say K-mart's "this is So-and-so" with
a large chunk of salt.
Go leave notes on doors where you see iris growing
that you like (I've never had anyone be annoyed by
this, and usually folks are very happy to talk with
someone who notices their iris).
Once you have some iris yourself, make a point of
giving a bunch of them away, to start new Iris People!
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