Thursday, June 11, 2015

Time Flies in the Garden: Siberian Iris Runs Through Our Lives.




             Wish I knew more about these plants. They practice "group mind" more thoroughly than any other perennial I know of. What's their secret?
            According to the expert testimony of online references, Siberian iris will cause your garden to burst  "with early season color and intricate, frilly flowers." (http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/flowers/iris/growing-siberian-iris.htm)
            Ah, but not for very long. When I see them blooming, I reach for the camera. If we get a rainy spell or the light is bad, or we go away for a few days, my chances of giving them a good looking over have markedly declined.
            We ran into a cool spell in late May, which they seemed to like, so I think we have had close two weeks of those "intricate, frilly flowers" this year.
            According to the source cited above, planting Siberian iris "in mass adds an elegant charm to the spring garden." Well, the plants got the mass part down for us. A few years ago, I dug up a weedy patch, moved these irises from an earlier home where they weren't providing many blossoms, and got out of their way. They filled the available space quickly.
            Not much else could compete with them. They've mapped this spot from border to border. I stuck some September-blooming asters between a couple of clumps of the transplanted irises. They lasted a year or two, but they're not there any more.
            A couple of clover stems, the tall weedy kind, stick a blossom head up in mid-summer and are endured for their success in parting this sea of green blades after the iris blossoms are gone
           While they seemed to last longer that other years, our Siberian iris have come and gone within the time frame when the larger, better known "bearded" irises began to bloom and ended. Some of those irises just came into their own this week. The Siberian irises are completely finished. When one or two flowers start to fade, I know they're all gone the next or the day after. They are the clearest example of group-think I know of.
            We have a second smaller colony of Siberian irises growing, and expanding, in a spot too shady for the production of many blooms,  but they love packing the place with their sharp looking vertical green blades. This year, following some tree-trimming to let in more light, they threw up about a dozen blossoms, a bracingly good show. But they must have got the memo from the bigger group in the back garden. Their blooms all faded in the same day or two as the others.
            I look through the online references on this stunning, quick-moving flower for some hint on how to prolong the blooming period, a subject on which I find they are all unanimously silent.
            I am told they are "low-maintenance," that their "easy care" involves regular watering on the first year, limited fertilization (I've been going with none) and "division of the clumps" every three to five years. I just know I have to mark my long-distance calendar now with this info, because the chances of my remembering this mandate range from exceedingly slim to absolutely none.
            I prefer the point of view of a different authority that sums up Siberian iris as "among the easiest of all types of iris to raise and bloom in the temperate" climates. I'm attracted to easy. If you'll be easy on me, I'll be easy on you.  
            Yet another authority, hinting at the shortness of the Siberians' blooming period, remarks that "their graceful foliage and sturdy stems are naturally attractive even when not in bloom." Maybe, but sometimes the spot in the garden which snags the eye for the two weeks in late May (or shorter) when Siberian iris turns the green world blue, just goes back to looking like "a place without any flowers" when they're gone.
            On the other hand, when they are drawing the eye to that intricate, charming, graceful, slenderized variation on the theme of 'iris,' they're simply aces.