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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

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Entries in Iris germanica (2)


The Moral Dilemma of a Messy Garden

This is a photo of the well tended Grey's Iris Garden in New Jersey. Click on the image to visit the site.

My front yard garden was messy. It had lost its curb appeal and there was nothing that I could do about it as long as I was tending to other people’s gardens. Today was the first time this season that I was able to tidy things up. The biggest culprits have been the perennials Iris Germanica. They were neglected for 4 years. Every third year they must be lifted, divided and replanted as smaller clumps. Otherwise, the plants get messy looking and the foliage lose the majesty that is demonstrated in the picture above.

My neighbors have seen the mess that neglected Irises create and they are not impressed. Yes, they ooo and aah when this plant is in bloom, but as soon as the flowers fade, so does their enthusiasm. Whenever I offer them my extra Iris clumps for their gardens they politely decline. One neighbor abhors anything that makes a garden messy and has been honest enough to confess that, when my garden is neglected, it’s too painful a sight for him to endure.

That raises a moral dilemma for the gardener. If poor curb appeal is disturbing to one's neighbors, is there an obligation for one to do something about it? In my case, the answer is yes. I have never gardened exclusively for my own pleasure, which is substantial. I enjoy sharing the results of my labor with others. Whenever my front yard garden is not looking its best, I am not being true to myself.


Tall Iris Perennials Are Teriffic

Tall irises make an important contribution to the perennial garden. The bearded varieties bloom when few other plants do. Their flowering begins after the tulips and daffodils are spent and before early summer perennials put on their display. The leaves of all iris varieties are elegant and bring superb architectural detail to the flower garden. This contribution starts before the irises start to bloom and continues up until the first frost.

While this plant is easy care and easy to grow, most varieties require dividing once every three years when their blooms start to wane or when they grow in a ring with an empty donut centre. That is the time to lift them, discard the spent centre and break up the rhizomes [bulbous roots] into smaller plants. This is done in August.

After irises finish blooming, only their stalks need to be cut down because the graceful leaves need to produce nutrition for next season’s flowers. This food factory will continue operating until the first frost, when leaves are cut down to about two inches from the ground.

Iris germanica "Savannah Sunset" available from Perennial Favorites Nursery. Click on image to visit their site.

Iris germanica or Bearded Iris. This is the most commonly known iris and is distinguished by its upright “standards” [the petals in the centre that grow vertically] and a fuzzy line or beard that runs down the “falls” [the curved petals that hang down]. This is a sun-loving plant that can withstand severe drought and cold and is hardy in zones 3 to 10. It is also the easiest iris to grow. It requires well-drained soil; otherwise the rhizomes may rot. This variety, with sword like leaves, is available in many shades and colors, most of them blooming from May to June. Its cultivars reach heights ranging from 27 to 42 inches. Some varieties are known to rebloom in August and September if the spent stalks of the first blooms are cut down.


Iris Siberica The Siberian Iris is distinguished by narrow upright standards and stiff, narrow and beardless falls. Flowers grow in zones 3 to 7 in June and July and depending on the cultivar, range in height from 18 to 24 inches. Its leaves are thin and grass like. This variety thrives in sun and moist soil and is frequently planted near stream and lake banks.


Iris ensata, kaempferi or Japanese Iris.

This variety, hardy in zones 4 to 9, has soft drooping standards and wide falls. It, too, is beardless, grows in June and July, and its cultivars reach heights ranging from 24 to 48 inches. The flowers of this variety are born on long stems with leaves that are thin and grasslike. Japanese irises thrive in sun and moist soil and are frequently planted on the banks of rivers and lakes.

Iris Louisiana hybrid or Water Iris.

Louisiana iris "Vermillion Queen" is available from Magnolia Garden Nursery. Click on image to visit their site.

This plant has swordlike leaves and will tolerate sun to part shade in zones 5 to 10. It is distinguished by its large, leathery, overlapping petals and its upright sepals. It grows in clumps in boggy moist soil at pond edges and, if potted, can be submerged into the shallow pools of water gardens. This iris will grow from 24 to 36 inches in height, depending on the cultivar, and will reach 3 feet in width by the second year. It may be divided immediately after blooming or in the fall.

The selection of tall Irises at most retail nurseries does not reflect the wide variety that is available. The gardener who is searching for a very specific cultivar or color will need to choose from among the many specialty growers that sell online.