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CULT: Why now?

I've had years when I lost a lot of irises as a result of extended 
periods of winter deep-freeze with no protective snow cover. Even in 
those years, though, there were specific cultivars that I KNEW were 
tough enough to take it, and they never let me down ... until this 

  That's what's been mystifying me about this year. Among the current 
and considerable losses are quite a few cultivars that have always been 
on my "indestructible" list - irises that have survived winters when 
virtually all of the other irises around them died. So why did they 
give up this year? What's different now?

  I just figured it out. I've had all the puzzle pieces for weeks, but I 
just now put them together into a comprehensible and sensible picture. 
The difference this year is that the weather pattern has still not 
stabilized into anything recognizable as spring. We keep getting a 
couple of days of warmth that stimulates growth followed by a bunch of 
days of cool that puts an unceremonious halt to any growth. 
Start-stop-start-stop-start-stop-start-stop-start-stop ...

  In the past when rot has overwhelmed my early spring garden after a 
particularly difficult winter, the "indestructible" irises have always 
managed to outgrow the rot as soon as warmth returns to the Northland. 
Not so this year. They simply aren't getting the warmth they need to 
grow. Each time I inspect the rows, I find clumps that appeared to be 
starting to recover a week ago which are now rotting and dying (or 
dead) again. Any potential recovery gets stalled each time another cool 
front sweeps in. The irises simply aren't able to outgrow the rot this 
year, and every week more of them are losing the battle entirely.

  Sad, yes, but also enlightening. I really thought I had the toughest 
of the tough growing in my iris beds now, but this new challenge is 
telling a different story. My "indestructible" list will be both 
shorter and more meaningful by the time this season is finished. 
"Tough" has taken on a whole new definition at The Irises of Shadowood.


USDA zone 3b, AHS zone 4 - northern Minnesota
normal annual precipitation 26-27"
slightly acid, potassium deficient, clay soil

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