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Iridescent Iris In A Flea Market garden

Iris time!

Iris are a Flea Market gardeners best friend in Spring because of the easy care and reliable beauty. Because they occasionally have to be divided, they are a common ‘pass along’ plant. Here’s a few favorites, your advice and how to divide irises.

Iris,’ was the goddess of the rainbow, the messenger of the Olympian gods, and the flower named for her has a rainbow of flower colors. Iris is one of the oldest garden flowers, the hardiest and often the only remnant of any long abandoned home garden.

Superstition Iris Farm, Cathey's Valley, CA

Superstition Iris Farm, Cathey’s Valley, CA Photo by Linda Gast

Spring here in my area means a trip to this iris farm! Just look! This is Superstition Iris Gardens in Cathey’s Valley, CA They do all their business by email if you’re not local. Awesome place!

During an April visit, the only way I could decide which iris to order was to scan the field of blooming ‘every color’ iris with squinted eyes and pick out which ones jumped out at me! I’ll post a second picture of one iris that I chose.

These are just the tall iris. They had several rows of mini iris and all the plants had small cards stapled to them identifying the name and habit and price.

My favorite, favorite, Iris 'Hemstitched' Reblooming Bearded Iris

My favorite, favorite, Iris ‘Hemstitched’ Reblooming Bearded Iris. See how it got its name?

Sue Langley’s  Iris 'Golden Panther' one of the iris I 'picked' at the iris farm.  It's a reblooming variety and blooms in Fall as well as Spring!

Sue Langley’s Iris ‘Golden Panther.’ This is one of the iris I ‘picked’ at the iris farm. It’s a reblooming variety and blooms in Fall as well as Spring!

Now see the one, I picked to compliment it…

Iris 'Cloudless Sunrise' Reblooming Bearded Iris

Iris ‘Cloudless Sunrise’ Reblooming Bearded Iris

Cherrie Carine's unknown iris

Cherrie Carine’s unknown iris

Cherrie Carine says, “ Sue, I was given this Iris as a gift from my neighbor…I love the color, but he didn’t know the name of it… is there anyone who thinks they know what this Iris is called?”

Jeannie F. DiMauro

Jeannie DiMauro’s iris

Jeannie DiMauro says, “I don’t know much about Iris, but oh my,… I have to love the fact they’re so easy to grow! I especially like coming across a long abandoned homestead or a ditch where someone once tossed a few Iris rhizomes and, over the years, they’d turned into a glorious display! When I lived in the country I used to make a point of watching for such a patch growing along a small ditch in Hempstead, Texas…. and now each spring I anticipate a small clump of yellow Iris expanding each year alongside a busy city street.”

Susan McKinney

Susan McKinney’s periwinkle blue iris

Susan McKinney says, “ I’m not sure of the name of this. It was growing all over the place at an Arby’s and I asked the manager if I could have a root of it and he said yes and it still lives in my yard today. I used to carry a shovel and bucket with me everywhere I went in case I needed it and it came in handy this time!”

Beth Reis Slender Blue Flag Iris is native here in CT.

Beth Reis’s slender Blue Flag Iris is native here in Connecticut.

How to plant iris

The new transplants should have a firm rhizome with roots and a fan of leaves. Remove and discard the old rhizomes and only replant the younger smaller rhizomes that grow off of the older stems.

Iris appreciates a sunny well-drained garden spot. When planting iris, again, soak the soil if it is very hard. Dig holes about five inches deep. Build a small mound in the middle of each hole and plant the rhizome firmly on top of the mound and let the roots fall down the mound.

Cover the roots with soil and leave the rhizome is just slightly exposed. Do not plant the rhizome too deep or it may rot. One good design is planting iris 12-18 inches apart in groups of three to seven sections of one variety. Usually the rhizomes are planted so the leaf fans face in one direction or in a circle. So, if your iris patch is producing very few flowers, it’s time to divide!

Lori Matter says, "I got a clump from a friend 19 years ago!"

Lori Matter says, “I got a clump from a friend 19 years ago!” See the color echo?

Rick McCullum's blue iris combines nicely with yellow and purple

Rick McCullum’s blue iris combines nicely with yellow and purple

Iris 'Ozark Rebounder' Reblooming Tall Bearded Iris

My Iris ‘Ozark Rebounder’ Reblooming Tall Bearded Iris

Divide Iris and conquer

The best time to divide and transplant iris rhizomes is late July through September, so the new plants will have plenty of time to become established before really cold weather sets in.

Iris loves the heat and drier weather of summer and the summer dividing will reduce the incidence of bacterial soft rot. Most iris should be divided every three to five years.

When transplanting iris, first soak the hard soil with a hose or sprinkler for a few minutes. Cut back the leaves to about one third of their height. Lift the entire clump with a spade or digging fork. Use a sharp knife or just crack the rhizomes apart to separate them.

Lovely Hartweg's Iris, Iris hartwegii, a wild one!

Lovely Hartweg’s Iris, Iris hartwegii, a wild one!

Eileen Sweeney says “I once had a summer job working for the President of the Connecticut Iris Society. I would work with her and her husband in their yard in exchange for payment in beautiful Iris rhizomes…and some cash! Apparently, once they have lost their identification……. Gee, my garden looked great for a few years after that!”

Jeanne Sammons says, " Gorgeous color and a re-bloomer!"

Jeanne Sammons says, ” Gorgeous color and a re-bloomer!”

Jeanne Sammons- “Gorgeous color and a re-bloomer! Here’s a black one that I just love by our little pond.”

Karen Settles- “I absolutely love Irises. Right now I only have 6 different kinds and I get my starts from friend. Twice I have dug some up and transplanted them from old abandoned homesteads way out in the country. Those two are my favorites. . Wonder why?”

Kitty Hale- “I love iris. It’s our state flower(Tennessee). I have nearly 100 varieties and can’t wait for bloom time. Love this color.”

Jeanne Peterson- “I am so lucky to have been given, many years ago, iris rhizomes, by my grandmother, father, and great aunt. I would love to add to the hundreds I have, but can no longer physically garden. Enjoy them! They are wonderful, carefree plants.”

Jennifer Frazier's gorgeous two-toned iris

Jennifer Frazier’s gorgeous two-toned iris

Jeanie Merritt's ruffly blue iris

Jeanie Merritt’s ruffly blue iris. She says, “This is my beautiful iris which I can not locate it’s name in my journal… Take a close look for the raindrops make it enchanting”

Geek alert! An excuse to say ‘remontant’

Although the most familiar type of iris is the bearded iris, the iris family includes more than 200 species including some North American natives, like the Douglas iris in the West and Virginia iris in the eastern US. Iris are separated into two major groups – rhizomatous and bulbous.

Rhizomes are horizontally growing underground stems that are used as food storage for the plant. The common bearded iris falls into this group as well as the beardless Siberian and Japanese iris. “Rebloomers” (also called “remontants”) are irises that produce two or more flushes of bloom each year.

Resources:

Superstition Iris Gardens

2536 Old Highway, Dept. H

Catheys Valley, California 95306-9738

Email: randrcv@sierratel.com

Phone: (209) 966-6277

http://www.fleamarketgardening.org/

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