Saturday, February 21, 2009

Bearded Iris

My favorite color, next to black, is purple. This must be why I find the irises on this lot absolutely beautiful. When we purchased the house, the irises in the front needed to be thinned. Some of the friends who helped us to move in are seasoned gardeners. They spotted the crowded plants in the front bed and relocated some to the backyard. The relocated irises did not bloom that summer, but OH BOY did the front ones bloom. I told my better half I suspected the flowers of feasting on neighborhood children.

Continuing with my research on spring cleanup, I found the irises should have been trimmed back in the Fall. Whoops. Throughout summer, spent flower stalks should be trimmed back to the plants base. Seed pods should be immediately snipped off. It allows energy to be spent more efficiently, focusing effort on the healthy parts of the plant.  Then when the first killing frost arrives, the sword-like leaves can be trimmed back until they are 4-6 inches long. This prevents pests and disease from wintering over. Most iris foliage are trimmed in a fan-like shape. I read this technique is not necessarily only for decorative reasons. The leaves at the center of the plant are often raised higher out of the ground. Buzzing leaves straight across risks trimming them to close.

So, what am I to do this spring? After Googling various arrangements of “iris,” “prune,” and “spring,” and browsing through quite a few sites reminding me I should have pruned my irises in the fall, I finally found this advice at (wait for it)
Bearded Iris of all types tend to carry some green leaves through the winter. Carefully pull off any dead leaves in spring and dispose of them, since they can harbour the dreaded Iris borer.
Great. Not only did I forget to trim back my poor irises, but I indirectly created a safe haven for their mortal enemy... possibly even their “nemesis.” When the snow disappears, I’ll remove and trash any of the brown leaves, asking for forgiveness as I do so. I hope the irises will forgive me and again grace our lot with those beautiful blooms.

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