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RE: Iris growing north of Parry Sound

  • Subject: RE: [iris-talk] Iris growing north of Parry Sound
  • From: "The Heders" <hederst@zeuter.com>
  • Date: Fri, 28 Sep 2001 10:03:01 -0400
  • Importance: Normal


Thank you very much for your suggestions ... usefully interspersed through
my questions ... Iris "fans" come available in August for planting ... I
bought it from a nursery 60 miles south of here to make sure the iris were
somewhat acclimatized ... but s I say, the orders are filled for the
customers in early August.  The rz (is that a short form we should use ?
"rz") were a decent size, but perhaps the august planting and the very cold
winter could be the cause of lack of bloom.  We definitely had a good layer
of snow.  The iris are planted on the west side of the house, so this means
they good full sunlight from about 12:30 pm to 7:00 pm, and then a line of
maple trees a few hundred feet away to the west begin to cast a shadow.  So
I think sunlight is OK.  I have a feeling that I just have to be patient and
wait and see what happens next year ... their second year.  Your email gives
me hope.

I've been filling up the garden with lovely forest soil ... well composted
and somewhat sandy loamy (combining with my glacial sand pit soil I am
currently working with).  In the course of doing this, I have probably
covered the RZ a little too much.  You seem to suggest NOT moving anything
this late in the season as it will disturb the roots.  Do you think I cut
just displace the soil above the RZs so that the iris is in a little "well"
with the RZ slight exposed?  ... I would be working from the top so the
roots would not be disturbed.

Someone suggested soil could be a winter "protection" ... so maybe I should
just leave them the way they are with a loose covering of soil on top ...
and then clear it back in the spring.

I really appreciate your comments ... especially as you are "up north"

250 irises ... it must look lovely.

I love gardening ... moved from a good soil / farming district in Barrie, an
hour south of us .. but find that our property - 1.5 mainly tree covered
acres - while it looks quite fertile, when you get right down to digging, is
actually very very very sandy.  So we have lots to do in the next few years
to build up the soil in the, as yet barely existent gardens.  I'll probably
be trying to work with what I've got and do much in the way of natural and
wild flowers suitable to a shady forest, but in the sunny open areas, I did
so want to do irises.  I had a few beauties in my last garden ... easy to
grow, but then the climate and soil were much more hospitable.  I am trying
my tiny "8" irises of different varieties, just to see how they manage, and
if I can get them growing right, I will start adding more.

So perhaps next summer there will be good news for me.  Thank you again for
your past advice .. and any more you send this way.

Susan Heder
Parry Sound, Ontario
(and I guess I should find out my growing/climate region and soil type and
include that, as you do)

-----Original Message-----
From: laurief [mailto:laurief@paulbunyan.net]
Sent: September 28, 2001 12:53 AM
To: iris-talk@yahoogroups.com
Subject: Re: [iris-talk] Iris growing north of Parry Sound

>Soil light sandy with leaves and compost started to be mixed in ..

I grow irises in northern Minnesota where our temps sometimes drop
significantly below -25, so perhaps I can offer my own insights based on
only 3-4 yrs iris growing experience (in other words, don't take my
observations as gospel - I'm still a fairly novice iris gardener).

My first thought is that you may need to feed your irises more frequently
than you currently are.  Fertilizers tend to leach out of sandy soil far
more quickly than they do out of my heavy clay.  Have your soil analyzed,
and add any nutrients shown to be insufficient for maximum iris

>This summer I only had one bloom between all 8 plants.
>Obviously I am doing something very wrong.

Not necessarily, but maybe.  Irises need 6 or more hours of direct
sunlight a day for optimun performance.  They don't like to be crowded or
to compete with neighboring plants for sunlight, water, and soil
nutrients.  Irises will not bloom until their rhizomes are mature, so if
you planted relatively small, immature rhizomes, they will need some
extra time to grow to blooming size. If you planted your irises after
mid-August last year, they may not have had time to root in adequately
before winter.  In my experience, that can severely impact an iris's
ability to grow the following year.  In my cold climate, I do everything
possible to see that all irises are in the ground no later than the end
of July.

It's also important to realize that in a short northern growing season,
the entire growth and bloom cycle of irises slows down.  The same
cultivar that may bloom and increase madly in its first year in the hot
South may go bloomless and grow only a single increase its first year in
a cold zone.  We northern growers have to be more patient with our irises.

>I did NOT put anything
>on top of the iris for winter protection and this may be why no
>blooms in summer 2001.

I don't believe that would have negatively impacted bloom.  It could
possibly have impacted survival of first year plants if they were planted
too late or if there was inadequate snow cover to protect the plants from
repeated freeze/thaw action.

>Should I plant the rhizome deeper?

No.  If you plant the rz too deeply, the plant will refuse to flower.
It's also far too late in the season to be disturbing iris roots this far

>won't it freeze right through?

Yes, it will.  It's not the freezing that might harm it.  It's repeated
freeze/thaw cycles that can injure rhizomes.

>   Or should I just cover the plant with something?

In my experience, winter mulch on bearded irises is a good news-bad news
proposition.  The good news is that mulch will help prevent those
potentially injurious freeze/thaw situations.  The bad news is that
bearded rhizomes can easily rot under compacted mulch, esp if it is not
removed at the proper time in early spring.  My first year growing
bearded irises, I planted many of them waaaay too late in the season and
decided to mulch them to give them a better chance of winter survival. I
covered them with spruce boughs on top of which I spread a layer of
straw.  The results were disastrous.  About 70% of the rhizomes rotted
and died the following spring.  I attributed that primarily to the late
planting, but the mulch may have played a factor as well.  I now make
sure I plant early in the season, and I don't mulch.  If we get a
severely cold winter with no or little snow cover, I suppose I may end up
losing many of my irises.  Last winter was more than cold enough, but we
did have adequate snow.  I had very few losses among my approx. 250

I hope something I have written here will prove useful to you.

Happy growing,


zone 3b northern MN - clay soil

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