Take the time to get it right the first time.
I will never forget my first iris bed. After reading a crazy man online, I placed newspaper right on Bermuda grass, piled it high with dirt, and planted away. I thought I really had cheated the system. Was I ever wrong! From spring all the way through to the killing winter frost, I would battle the grass growing up through a foot of soil and newspaper! I ended up tearing out the flowerbed and digging out the grass – the hard work I was trying to avoid to start with. It was made twice has hard when I had to move my whole flowerbed to get down to the grass I should have removed to start with. The moral – do it right the first time. Is money an issue? Start slow and do what you can afford to do. Never take a short cut because, in time, you will have paid twice the blood sweat and tears.
Divide and Conquer
Every three years is the golden rule of most iris. That means that every three years you need to plan to dig up and divide most iris. There is something great here. It is the best thing you can do, really… this is gold when you think about it! Every three years you can share your prized iris with friends, family, fellow DGer’s, the list just goes on and on! In time you will get them hooked on iris too… and then there is the trading. You can trade locally, nationally, or internationally. You can sell them online, locally, or in local iris club sales. The ideas are endless and make this a great hobby to start with. Iris is a plant that lends itself to sharing.
Groups of three and let them be.
Okay, so you are ready to buy iris---great! One of each, right? Well, just stop right there partner. You have to learn the rule of three. When you can afford it, and they stock it there, the best way to get iris to make that big blooming clump we all drool over is to buy not one but three. Yes, it means you will have to dig and divide faster but look above and see all the reasons to say yes and plant three!
Avmoran shared with me, “Feed once a year with triple phosphate, lime for acidic soils, nothing for alkaline soil unless growing beardless, then muriatic acid can help.” This is the big deal. This is the real secret. Give iris what they love when they need it once a year and everything else will fall into place.
Irisloverdee told me the best wisdom she had was, “Buy them, grow them, love them.” This is very true. If you don’t buy them, you will never know what they look like in your garden and you will never know the joy they can bring you. If you don’t grow them--not just plant and forget but really grow them--you will never see the wonderful plants they can become. And if you don’t love them don’t plant them because they will take up space you will always want something else in.
Doss told me, “There is no bad color combination when it comes to iris.” That is true. What other flower, when planted together, can take the wealth of colors, add them all to one bed, and still look wonderful? What gives iris the ability to be planted in big groups with bold colors and not look tacky? We don’t know. All we know is it works and we love them for it.
I want to thank Pajaritomt, Jackieshar, Avmoran, Irisloverdee, Happygarden, and Doss for answering my many research questions for this article. Thank you to Toxicodendron for the images for this article.