Iris thoughts for November

bear_with_me(8 Pacific NW)November 10, 2013

Going into November. Not a lot to do with bearded iris beds here. Random thoughts to help get through the winter.

Foliage has pretty much died off. Most of the rhizomes look plump and firm. For a few varieties, I've had many years, I don't know what to do with the extras. Some I plant in the fence row. Too small for the fence row, the diminutive Cherry Garden, which I rescued from my own garden beds, and now have several clusters. I like it too much to give it away.

Weeds are pulled. Most of the dying leaves are removed. I added a layer of tree leaf compost to the soil surface, taking care not to cover rhizomes. On top of the compost, organic slug pellets. Slugs like to eat bearded iris leaves here.

I did add Spring bulbs among the bearded irises, so there is something to focus on while waiting for the main attractions. Daffodils, Muscari, Hyacinths. Rabbits may eat the Muscari.

I have some orders in for Spring planting at Old House Gardens. That is still a few months away.

So that leaves random thoughts. And browsing catalogs, even though I don't intend to buy any, right now.

There are so many varieties, and not a lot more room or energy. So if I add any, they need to really stand out or have a special trait.

The special traits I look for:

Fragrance. I'll take a fragrant one over a nonfragrant one, all other things being equal. Last summer I added Owyhee Desert, Gingersnap (historic and fragrant). Also Alcazar - even more historic, and reported as fragrant. I hope it blooms next Spring.

Historic variety. However some of these look too much alike. I like them for their history. Some are sturdy which is good in my garden. A couple of my orders might look too much like each other. LIke, Dauntless, Indian Chief, and Rosy Wings. I may have to choose which of those I like better, once they grow and bloom.

Vigor. It's encouraging to see great growth and increase. In my garden, Edith Wolford, Accent, Spiced Custard, American Classic, are among the more vigorous. Helen Collingwood looks like it will be very vigorous too. Shannopin made a lot of growth this year. Flavescens and Sans Souci, not so much but I like the flowers.

Not too floppy. Some big frilly flowered varieties fall over and become gloppy in the rainy Spring here. When it rains, Immortality looks like wet tissue paper on sticks.

Things I wish breeders would focus on, and sellers would emphasize in their offerings -

Resistant to disease. Especially leaf spot. I've also had a few rot out after planting. Not many.



Stem strength. Quite a few of mine flop over - some unnamed. Modern ones seem more likely to, likely due to the big flowers.

Just random thoughts to pass time while waiting for Spring growth and promises of flowers in May.

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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

I'm interested in the same plant features that you are, but I would substitute rebloom for fragrance.

I think sellers would do us all a service by telling us how the plant grows in their area. That said, perhaps they don't want people ordering from distant states to be misled by the information. What does well in Washington State may not survive in Nebraska.

I have very good luck with Total Recall, Persian Berry, and Mariposa Autumn. All are disease free, have strong stalks, and bloom wonderfully. I grow another older variety, Lady Friend, that does well but has a short bloom period and gets very few flowers per stalk.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2013 at 9:11PM
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bear_with_me(8 Pacific NW)

I hear you about the differences by region. I have had some reblooming. It seems to come in Oct and even Nov when the leaves are dying and and the rains make the flowers mushy. I wish they would wait until Spring when they could make full use of the energy! So reblooming is not a priority for me! I can see why it would be an attraction in California though.

My rebloomer is Sunny Disposition. It is beautiful and has a sweet fragrance.

Since I like older varieties I've been trying to find a Beverly Sills. Next year!

    Bookmark   November 21, 2013 at 8:56PM
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Bear_With_Me: you are in PNW; how far south or north? I am in Canada close to the US border and if you are in the north, our climate would be similar.
How do I protect the iris rhizomes against frost? Or freezing ground? We do get below freezing temps on and off. Do I need to lift and store them? As a matter of fact they got shipped to me 3 weeks ago and aren't planted yet.
PS. Do squirrels eat iris rhizomes?

This post was edited by otis11 on Mon, Nov 25, 13 at 18:38

    Bookmark   November 25, 2013 at 6:16PM
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bear_with_me(8 Pacific NW)

I am in Vancouver Washington near Portland Oregon.
I dont protect rhizomes from frost. They go through hard freezes just fine. Exceptions might be some California varieties,
I used to grow them in Illinois where it got a lot colder than here. They never needed protection.
If the ground is not frozen I would plant your new rhizomes with the top of the rhizome exposed so it doesnt rot, This might be too late but I have done it before with success.
My squirrels eat everything else but not iris rhizomes.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2013 at 11:44PM
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We are in the Seattle area.

This yr. I did not cut back the iris leaves in the fall per a "so called expert". And, last wk. I noticed black spots on the leaves. To me it looks like what I have seen called "ink spot" fungus disease.

Yet in Bear With Me's photos some of her leaves look like they have black inky looking spots.

So, my question is whether this is likely ink spot fungus OR is this what happens to the leaves in winter?

    Bookmark   December 25, 2013 at 3:44PM
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My irises look pretty crummy this time of year. Still, they come out of it OK in the Spring. Some years I spray the leaves with neem oil to reduce the spotting. That seems to help.

I don't know if it's the same as what happens to yours, but I wouldn't expect them to look good now. Mine always look like this now, and they look great in bloom.

Still, that's one of my thoughts about the breeders. I would like to see them breed more for resistance to disease.

    Bookmark   December 25, 2013 at 8:57PM
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iris_gal(z9 CA)

I hadn't heard of Ink Spot fungus on iris. Aspen trees in the PNW are susceptible.

Beardeds do get Leaf Spot fungus. It does Not injure/kill the iris. Only disfigures. Some years bad, others no. You may spray with a fungicide to 'innoculate' new leaves.

The mother rhizome is tired after producing the lavish blooms plus producing offspring babies. Expect the foliage to look bad as it slowly dies off before winter. That is what I see in Bear's picture. The dying-off process with new growth emerging.

I groom my iris like I do the roses, removing dead and half-dead leaves when gardening. Just finished doing more yesterday. All healthy foliage, on all plants, is producing their 'food'. That's why I don't cut back healthy foliage. Many do. Your choice. Don't expect It to prevent disease. It won't.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   January 2, 2014 at 3:56PM
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