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Re: competition and iris species

  • To: Multiple recipients of list <iris-l@rt66.com>
  • Subject: Re: competition and iris species
  • From: Linda Mann <lmann@icx.net>
  • Date: Thu, 21 May 1998 05:12:33 -0600 (MDT)

Bill Shear wrote:
> My experience has been that regularly
> being moved is good for bearded irises, perhaps reflecting their heritage
> as plants that occur in earlier stages of succession in nature.  In other
> words, our favorite flower is just a bit weedy, and doesn't take well to
> competition!
And Kathy Haggstrom said
> Just caught the above note re: plant succession. Is this the common
> niche for all species of iris? 

No, not for all the species discussed on-list, and not even for all the
bearded species.  In my 'collection' (I hesitate to call it a 'garden'),
if it doesn't get frozen, I. pallida blooms profusely in spite of weeds
and being in the same place forever, including dense unmowed fescue sod;
so does 'germanica' and so does HONORABILE (I. variegata).  HONORABILE
does seem to have a 'window' of what conditions it likes - it isn't as
tall as pallida and doesn't thrive amongst really rampant growth like
fescue hay, blooms most profusely in full sun in loose soil, but does
tolerate a lot of competition from tall phlox, sweet williams, and
miscellaneous junk in partial shade (where a ten-year old clump bloomed
heavily this year) as well as in full sun, no weeds.  There was some
discussion of this in the early days of the list - seems like Clarence
Mahan and a few others interested in historic irises had something to
say on the subject.

However, all those tender and even not-so tender but too tender for here
cultivars that we all love so much may not tolerate competition, packed
soil, and partial shade even in the south and may need to be disturbed
(dug and divided or at least chunks dug out of them) more often.

So I wonder if the bearded species from the wetter parts of the world
tolerate competition more than the Mediterranean species?  

There was a thread about this a while back that I didn't have time to
comment on. I have noticed over the years that some cultivars absolutely
will not bloom unless they are disturbed (now THAT conjures an image!),
and some that are prone to rot if they are mulched/smothered with low
growing lush 'companions', and others do just fine undisturbed for years
and completely buried under companion plants.  None of the tall bearded
cultivars that I have grown tolerates dense shade, but some seem to
thrive with partial shade, especially of high canopy.  It may be a
trade-off benefit from partial protection from roller coaster
winter/spring freezes.

The on-list comments about henbit were interesting - I try to keep it
pulled from the immediate growing spot of rhizomes, but in my location,
it doesn't reach the lush conditions others were reporting.  Average
height is probably 6 inches tall, and the plants are sparse - either
conditions are too well drained (gravelly) to encourage that kind of
lush growth or the spring-freeze gradient stunts them.

The companion plants and adjacent mulch can provide good habitat for
those evil little rhizome chewing bacteria spitting invertebrates, such
as crickets and southeastern June bugs (see the archives).

Linda Mann east Tennessee USA

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