I'm a little late with this, but it is STILL the first week of the New Year, so it's still timely.
I got to thinking about this when I was out in the garden yesterday, although really, it's a thought that has been fermenting since last summer.
Basically, I have too many bearded irises to take good care of, and for their sakes (and mine) I need to get things under control.
My New Year's resolutions for irises are:
1. Limit the number of incoming irises of all kinds, with especial emphasis on limiting the bearded irises.
So far I have one door prize TB incoming this summer, and I am trying hard to avoid ordering any new bearded irises. PCIs are still permissible, as they can potentially be grown where the bearded irises don't have a chance, and I have a poor survival rate for those anyway.
One or two more I. japonica
or I. confusa
might be acceptable. ('Chengdu' should be replaced, but planted elsewhere.)
2. Continue to winnow out the less desirable irises, with especial emphasis on the bearded irises.
Right now any PCI that is surviving is a good PCI, ditto the other non-beardeds.
The bearded irises need to be greatly reduced in number with the ultimate plan being a few more in the ground (than there are now), with the remaining potted ones in larger (5-7 gal) pots.
3. Come up with a maintenance schedule that is do-able and which will allow for proper maintenance/management of the irises.
Right now I have 237 bearded irises in my plant list (and I am sure that I have somehow missed some
). Potentially all irises should be divided or repotted every summer, so that's an awful lot of irises to be dealing with. (Yes, I know that for those of you with lots of ground space, dividing every year is not necessary. That isn't my situation. Most of my irises are, and will continue to be, in pots. It is beginning to sink in that 2 years is an upper number for how long any one iris should be in a pot without dividing, and that's presuming that it was a large pot to begin with. 1 rhizome in a 1 gal pot is good for one year, and then it must be re-potted into something larger (I call this "up-potting") if you want bloom the following year, no argument about it.)
Soooo.... Let's say that unlike this year (and the year before, and the year before THAT), I want to ideally be done with all iris division by September 1st. (If we travel for a week or 10 days in the summer, and/or we get 90 -ish heat waves, that schedule allows for slippage up to around October 1, which while not ideal is still not too bad.) In any event, no more having naked rhizomes hanging around throughout October, November, and December...
I also want a manageable work load, one that I can consistently deal with, given other things going on in my life (daylily season, other projects, Warp). That means no more iris dividing binges, but spreading the work out.
This means that I need to plan on dividing/re-potting/re-planting every day throughout the summer
This also means that I will have to plan the division date for any particular cultivar such that it lines up with giveaway dates, or else gang-pot those rhizomes I am not keeping myself into a separate/additional pot (per cultivar) for easier watering/maintenance and then later giveaway that summer. (If there are enough extra / non-promised leftover rhizomes of a recently (2-3 years or so) introduced iris, pot some to grow for the club's door prize program, and/or pot 1 to be given (with a nice ceramic pot) at the club's holiday gift exchange.)
About the earliest I would start division/re-potting would be June 1st. June 1st through the end of August is 92 days. Ideally I would only want to divide 1 iris per day (I am thinking pipeline here) so that means only 92 irises!
(That's an over 50% kill/dispose/triage rate!) If I can manage 2 irises a day, that means 184 irises (with fewer irises needing to go, presuming I have space for 184 WELL GROWN irises, be they in pots or in the ground). I think you get the idea.
To be specific, the routine would go something like this (the model here is 1 iris a day, up scaled as needed to get all the irises done):
Dig or de-pot iris #1. Trim, wash, divide, snap off old mothers, set aside (with label) in shade to dry for 2 days. If the iris was in a pot, recondition the soil and prepare for re-potting (may require up-potting). Prepare any additional holding pot (and label) as needed.
Dig or de-pot iris #2. Proceed as with iris #1.
Dig or de-pot iris #3. Proceed as with irises #1, 2. Re-pot or re-plant iris #1.
Rinse and repeat Day 3 until done.
When all the irises that are going to an individual person (or cause, such as our rhizome sale) have been divided, then remove the set-aside rhizomes (from the additional pots), rinse, and dry for a day before shipping or distributing. (Irises saved as door prizes will be grown on for one year. An iris (if any) designated for the holiday dinner gift exchange will be grown in a 1 gal pot until December, then coupled with a suitably large ceramic pot for gifting.)
Fertilize the bearded irises around February 14. Try to remember to re-fertilize after bloom. (I am hit or miss, mostly miss, on that.) Definitely re-fertilize when re-potting or replanting.
All of that is for the bearded irises. The I. louisiana
is down in the creek, and the only maintenance there is deadheading (which I never seem to get around to
For the PCIs, look at the clumps in October (also recall the performance from the spring) and determine if any need dividing; if so, do it late October. Otherwise, fertilize sometime in January and then again early November.
For the I. japonica
, hybrids thereof, and I. chengdu
, fertilize in late January, maybe again in early fall. Re-pot or replant when and as necessary.
4. Keep hybridizing in check, because all seedlings have to be grown in pots.
Be highly selective about the crosses; do not cross things just because they are pretty. Have a goal, be it a particular color or color pattern, or rebloom, or improvement of an older cultivar, or whatever. Work towards that goal. (For example, if the plan is to get a good rebloomer, then cross only rebloomers, no matter how tempted to do otherwise. (Some reblooming goals may first require generating bridge plants from spring-only bloomers.)) One or two goals may be acceptable, but try not to exceed that, because the more goals, the more seeds, the more seedlings, the more pots...
So, that's the plan. We'll see how well I manage to stick with it!