Tag Archive: iris


Relax, it's summer...picture by Merv French

Relax, it’s summer…picture by Merv French

August can be a bit of a ‘graveyard’ month – few things are looking good in the garden as the first flushes of growth on many plants have died or been pruned away and there’s not much (yet) to replace them. It can be one of the hottest, driest months in the UK, too, making watering essential – and this could be a problem if you’re on holiday and don’t have friends or neighbours (or an automatic watering system) to do it for you. So this month’s tips are mainly about harvesting, maintaining colour and interest, pruning and propagating new plants – and of course, watering!

1. Prune now for next year’s fruit and flowers

To encourage flowering or fruiting shoots, prune early flowering shrubs if not already done so and also trim back the new straggly stems of Wisteria to about 5 or 6 buds above the joint with the main stem – this will encourage energy to go into forming new flowering spurs. Do the same for fan or other trained fruit like plums, cherries a etc. Cut out the old fruiting stems of summer raspberries to encourage the new stems to grow and tie these in as you go to stop them rocking around too much. Sever, lift and pot up strawberry runners if you want to replace old plants or expand your strawberry bed. Trim back your lavender once it has finished flowering, to stop it growing leggy (but just the tops- don’t cut into old, woody stems).

2. Cut out the dead or diseased

Dead head and ‘dead leaf’ perennials and annuals to prolong flowering as long as possible and keep plants looking tidy. Cut back herbs (Chives, Chervil, Fennel, Marjoram etc.) to encourage a new flush of tasty leaves that you can harvest before the first frost. Dry or freeze your herbs to use in the kitchen later on or sow some in pots that you can bring inside later in the year.  Look out for symptoms of Clematis Wilt such as wilting leaves and black discolouration on the leaves and stems of your Clematis. Cut out any infected plant material and dispose of it in your household waste.

Clematis wilt

Clematis wilt

3. Water when necessary

Containers, hanging baskets and new plants in particular need a regular water and some will need to be fed too. Ideally use stored rainwater or ‘grey water’ (recycled from household washing, but only that without soap and detergents etc.). Keep ponds, bog gardens and water features topped up. Particularly thirsty plants include:

  • Phlox

  • Aster

  • Persicaria

  • Aconitum

  • Helenium

  • Monarda

4. Mulch

To conserve moisture in the soil around plants use a mulch of organic material. An easy option is grass clippings –  put these on a plastic sheet and leave for a day in the sunshine. Turn the pile of clippings and leave for another day, or until they have turned brown. Spread the mulch round each plant, but avoid covering the crown as you might encourage it to rot. As mulch attracts slugs avoid those plants that these pests enjoy – Hostas, Delphiniums etc. Check that any mulch applied earlier hasn’t decomposed and add more as needed. Ideally, spread a mid-season layer of compost or manure – this will act to conserve moisture and feed the plants too.

Harvest Sweet corn this month

Harvest Sweet corn this month

5. Harvest home

Pick vegetables such as Sweet Corn. Pinch out the top of tomato plants to concentrate the growth into the fruit that has already formed. Aim to leave 5 or 6 trusses of fruit per plant. If you’re going away ask a neighbour / friend to pick your flowers, salad and veg to prevent everything running to seed in your absence.

6. Last chance saloon 

In the early part of the month sow your last veg for autumn/ winter harvesting (e.g chard or spinach). You can also sow salad leaves under cover in warmer areas. And sow green manures in ground that is going to be left vacant for a few months so as to help maintain nutrient levels and to keep weeds down.

7. Think seeds

Gather seeds from plants you want to propagate in this way and store them/ seed heads in paper bags if it’s not yet ripe. And why not allow some self seeding in some areas? Mow wild flower meadows to allow seeds to spread for next year.

Divide Bearded irises to give the divisions time to establish

Divide Bearded irises to give the divisions time to establish

8. Divide to multiply 

If the weather and soil conditions allow, start dividing perennials, perhaps beginning with bearded Irises. Either replant the divisions in the garden or pot them up for later sales/swaps/gifts.

9. Cut to grow 

Take cuttings, an excellent way of increasing your woody and semi-woody plants like fuchsias and pelargoniums. Choose a healthy shoot and cut the top six inches, then remove all but the topmost leaves. For insurance, dip in a little rooting powder and place in moist compost. Keep them in a cold greenhouse from September and plant them in their positions next spring, when there is not much chance of heavy frost.

August is a good time for taking Fuchsia cuttings

August is a good time for taking Fuchsia cuttings

10. Enjoy and inspect

Spend a good amount of time in the garden enjoying it – asleep, with friends or just admiring what you and mother nature have created! And while you’re at it make notes / take photos of your borders etc. to identify any problem areas that need sorting out for next year; overcrowded groups of plants, gaps, areas lacking colour or interest, weak looking plants etc. And it’s also important to record good plant combinations you might want to repeat – or just take pictures of those good looking areas for the record.

Old School Gardener

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As flowers go over be sure to deadhead regularly where appropriate to encourage longer flowering on into the Autumn and generally prevent the garden from looking frazzled and messy.

Collect seed pods for those plants that you’re planning to re-seed, and those that you don’t want to reseed themselves.

Prune back your pleached fruit trees, leaving 3 or 4 leaves on each sideshoot.  If any of your other fruit trees need pruning, do this immediately after you have harvested.

Trim back your lavender once it has finished flowering, to stop it growing leggy.

Although weeds will be growing more slowly than in the spring, it’s an idea to continue to hoe the soil to keep them down. This should be done in warm, dry conditions to ensure any weed seedlings left on the surface dehydrate and die.

If you’re going away ask a neighbour / willing family member to pick your flowers, salad and veg to prevent everything running to seed in your absence.

Now is the time to look at your borders and note any gaps / congestion that you’ll want to rectify later in the season when everything has gone over, ahead of next year. And start your shopping list for Autumn bulbs.

And of course, at this time of year, watering is key. Keep on top of this daily, making sure you water in the morning or late afternoon-evening to prevent the heat evaporating all the water before it reaches the plant roots.

Grow Your Own

Flowers
Support your dahlias, lilies and gladioli with stakes and flower rings to ensure the weight of their beautiful flower doesn’t cause their stems to break.

Chrysanths will benefit from being pinched or sheared back, encouraging more growth and flowers.

Keep picking your cut flowers to encourage more blooms and a longer flowering season.

Towards the end of August you can start planning next year’s colour by sowing your hardy annuals.

Grow Your Own

Veg and Salad

Plant out your leeks and brassicas if you haven’t already, and you can also squeeze in a final sowing of spinach and chard in the first couple of weeks of August.

Sow salad leaves under cover, or out in the open if in warmer parts of the UK.


Herbs 
Sow Basil,  Marjoram, Borage, Chervil, Chives, Coriander, Dill, Parsley in pots outside, to make moving them indoors as easy as possible in the late autumn

Fruit
Transplant strawberry runners to a new position.

Ensure that your fruit crops aren’t pinched by the birds by covering with netting, ensuring the netting stands well clear of the fruit.

Harvesting Food – What you could be picking and eating this time next year, or – if you’re an old hand – already are 

– See more at: http://www.sarahraven.com/august-in-the-garden#sthash.xPIdXOO2.dpuf

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Iris 'Black Affair'

Iris ‘Black Affair’

Picture: Bev Evans

Picture: Bev Evans

Blue Iris by Gina Gray

Blue Iris by Gina Gray

PicPost: Iris my case

Irises by Van Gogh

Irises by Van Gogh

I’ve thought for some time that I must grow more Irises in my garden, but somehow the massive choice and being not quite sure about how to grow them successfully tends to make me wary.
I have grown some bearded irises in pots (and they’ve done quite well, despite a bout of Iris Rust last summer), and also some bulbous varieties in the border – they always please, as much for their strappy green foliage as for their flowers. I must be a bit more adventurous and devote a largish area to a bold display of one or two varieties – when I can afford it!

Iris persica - a bulbous Iris as drawn by Sowerby in 1792

Iris persica – a bulbous Iris as drawn by Sowerby in 1792

Irises – otherwise known as Flags, Sword Lilies or Fleur de Lis – is a genus of some 300 species from very varied habitats from around the northern hemisphere. They vary between those that are bulbs, those with rhizomatous (expanding, tuberous) roots, and some that are fleshy – rooted. They can be evergreen or deciduous and have very varied growth requirements. Irises are classified by the Royal Horticultural Society into these sub sections or ‘subgenera’:

  • Bearded species and cultivars– various sizes from miniature dwarf to tall. These are the most widely grown group of Irises, are rhizomatous and prefer well drained soil.
  • Aril irises are a group of bearded irises that become dormant in the summer after flowering and need to be kept dry whilst in this state.
  • Beardless irises generally have more flowers per stem, than  bearded types. They are also rhizomatous and prefer well drained conditions, apart from the Laevigate group which needs damp soil.
  • Crested irises are rhizomatous, spread freely, and prefer moist soil.
  • Bulbous irises are beardless and summer dormant. They prefer well-drained soil.
Iris aphylla -with prominent 'beard'

Iris aphylla -with prominent ‘beard’

Iris orientalis showing rhizome roots

Iris orientalis showing rhizome roots

The Iris has connections with ancient Greece, where Iris was the messenger of the Gods, communicating between heaven and earth through a rainbow (so a reference to the wide range of Iris colours available). Irises have been valued plants for a long time and the flowers have had a long association with heraldry and royalty.

The iris flower has three outer and three inner tepals (a uniform type of petal on the outer part of the flower). The outer three bend back and may also hang down, so are referred to as ‘falls’ – they are usually the most colourful part of the flower and are especially large and colourful in the bearded irises, which have white or coloured hairs, like a beard, in the centre of each fall. Crested irises have a ridge (or crest) on each fall.

The three inner tepals are called ‘standards’, as they generally stand upright in the middle of the flower (like a flag), but may also lie horizontally as in I. tectorum; droop as in I. bucharicha; or be much reduced as in I. danfordiae.

Three modified styles called stigma flaps reach out over the falls from the middle of the flower and can be an important feature. The iris flower is of interest as an example of the relation between flowering plants and pollinating insects, the shape of the flower and the position of the pollen-receiving and stigmatic surfaces on the outer petals forming a convenient landing-stage for flying insects. All parts of the Iris plant are poisonous and contact with the sap may cause skin irritation. However, Irises are low in allergens.

Iris orientalis

Iris orientalis

Iris 'Samurai Warrior'- the closest breeders have come to a red Iris

Iris ‘Samurai Warrior’- the closest breeders have come to a red Iris

Irises are extensively grown as ornamental plants in home and botanical gardens. They grow in any good free garden soil, the smaller and more delicate species needing only the aid of turf ingredients, either peat or loam, to keep it light and open in texture. The earliest to bloom are species like I. junonia and I.reichenbachii, which flower as early as February and March (Northern Hemisphere). These are followed by the dwarf forms of I. pumila which blossom in Spring, and these are followed in early Summer by most of the tall bearded varieties, such as the German Iris and its variety florentina, Sweet Iris, Hungarian Iris, Lemon-yellow Iris and their natural and horticultural hybrids such as those described under names like I. neglecta or I. squalens.

 

The Iris is hardy, reliable, and easy to grow. Irises also attract butterflies and make lovely cut flowers. The Old Farmers’ Almanac suggests the following tips for growing Irises:

  • ‘Irises need at least half a day of sun and well-drained soil. Without enough sun, they won’t bloom.
  • They prefer fertile, neutral to slightly acidic soil. If your soil is very acidic, sweeten it with a bit of lime, and forbear summer watering, which can lead to rot.
  • Bearded irises must not be shaded by other plants; many do best in a special bed on their own.
  • Soil drainage is very important. Loosen the soil with a tiller or garden fork to a depth of 12 to 15 inches, then mix in a 2 to 4-inch layer of compost.
  • Plant iris in mid to late summer.
  • Bearded irises have rhizomes (fleshy roots) that should be partially exposed, or thinly covered with soil in hot climates.
  • Plant rhizomes singly or in groups of three with the fans outermost, 1 to 2 feet apart, depending on the size.
  • Dig a shallow hole 10 inches in diameter and 4 inches deep. Make a ridge of soil down the middle and place the rhizome on the ridge, spreading roots down both sides. Fill the hole with soil and firm it gently.
  • Water thoroughly.
  • When planting, top-dress with a low-nitrogen fertilizer, and again in early spring.’

As I conclude this article, I’m already thinking of an open, sunny spot where a bold display of summer flowering bearded Irises (one of the brown ones like ‘Kent Pride’) would look great in Old School Garden. Perhaps mixed in with some purple Heuchera to mask their rhizomes and some later seasonal interest ….watch this space.

 

PicPost: Bearded Beauty

Bearded Iris drawn by Sue Walker White

Further information:

Pictures of Iris varieties

About Iris

British Iris Society

National collection of water irises event

Iris weekend 6-7 July, Rosemoor, Devon

Places to see Bearded Irises in May- June:

Godlington House, Kent

Marks Hall Garden & Arboretum, Essex

Doddington Hall, Lincolnshire

Old School Gardener

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