Irises forum: What are your iris plans for the New Year?

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Name: Marilyn, aka "Poly"
South San Francisco Bay Area (Zone 9b)
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Polymerous
Jan 4, 2020 7:14 PM CST
I'm a little late with this, but it is STILL the first week of the New Year, so it's still timely. Whistling

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.

SO....

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. Whistling 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. Hilarious! 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 D'Oh! ). 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... Whistling

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 . Blinking 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! Blinking (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):

Day 1: 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.

Day 2: Dig or de-pot iris #2. Proceed as with iris #1.

Day 3: 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 Whistling )

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! Rolling on the floor laughing
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[Last edited by Polymerous - Jan 4, 2020 11:11 PM (+)]
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Name: Evelyn
Sierra foothills, Northern CA (Zone 8a)
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evelyninthegarden
Jan 4, 2020 9:16 PM CST
Marilyn ~ Please let us know how well that works out for you! Crossing Fingers!

I have similar goals, though I'm only in my third year of growing a large number of irises, I have somehow already accumulated too many. I will be looking at second and third year growth, to see which ones do the best, and which ones that I like the best. If it is pretty, but does not grow well for me, it will just have to go. And of course, if I don't like them enough, they will also go.

We have so many deer browsing here, but I want to incorporate some of the irises into the landscape, after the fire insurance inspection! They won't even allow any plants within 5' of the house. We had to dig and replant what was growing there to other beds. Anyway, about the deer...they do browse on all the plants, even though irises are not their favorite. I will try repellent and maybe a temporary barrier...not sure.

I do have one large perennial bed, within the fenced garden area, that I was going to dig up and replant, but you know what happened, so it did not get done in fall. I was hoping to renew the strawberry bed as well, though with no care at all, we had a bumper crop of strawberries. It helped that we had some rain in spring. Some years it is pretty dry. There is plenty of work to be done out there, it is possible that some work can be done in between storms before the snow comes to stay.

The hybridizing goals need to be consolidated as I, too, have too many ideas. Every idea is like the "Sorcerer's Apprentice", and multiplies so fast and, "Where on earth will they all be planted?" Whistling Hilarious!

I still do have an idea where the next large bed will go.... Whistling
"Luck favors the prepared mind." - Thomas Jefferson
Name: Jan Wax
Mendocino County, N. CA (Zone 9a)
I'm a studio potter.
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janwax
Jan 5, 2020 11:10 AM CST
Evelyn and Marilyn, you have big garden plans! I applaud your goals! Hurray! Hurray!

I, on the other hand, have way too many irises - somewhere in the vicinity of 700 or so, including my own seedlings. (the plant list says I have over 800. but that includes Wants! D'Oh! ) My solution has been to hire a lovely lady for 4 hours each week - for the past year. She's half my age and has many times my strength. Sometimes she brings her 10 yr. old son with her. He was a student in Chris' elementary school art class in past years and they share an interest in birds. DH is going to put him to work helping him stack firewood.

So, together, Liz and I will be discarding or giving away many of the excess irises. She's already started an iris garden of her own with good results.
Hopefully we can pare the iris garden down to under 500 - but it will be hard to stop "pollen daubing"! I've also acquired a taste for day lilies! Rolling my eyes. Controlling my wants is my biggest goal.
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Name: Lilli
Lundby, Denmark, EU
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IrisLilli
Jan 5, 2020 11:36 AM CST
Well, I have one goal and that is to reduce the number of irises I have in pots - most of them from the move, but also most(?) of the more recent acquisitions. (I'm in full swing making new shopping lists! Whistling Big Grin )
This will involve 1) Finishing my iris hill this spring, so it will be ready for planting in late summer. 2) Digging the long narrow beds next to the main pathway out back and 3) Most importantly, get the [censored!] voles under control!! Grumbling The good news: I found pellets from what must be a large owl, so with any luck it'll stick around - owls are supposed to be among the best vole-hunters we have. Crossing Fingers! Crossing Fingers! Crossing Fingers!

Another of my iris plans is to try out more non-bearded irises. I've already got a few, mostly Sibs and plan to get more of those, but I'm looking at some of the water-loving kinds as well. Very exciting! Hurray!

Finally, I would like to find a permanent home for all the dry-loving little irises, mostly species or species hybrids, I have in pots and small troughs - maybe larger troughs?

...and who knows, maybe I'll even find the time to get my hybridising going again? Crossing Fingers!
You don't know if it will grow until you try!
Name: Marilyn, aka "Poly"
South San Francisco Bay Area (Zone 9b)
"The mountains are calling..."
Region: California Garden Photography Garden Procrastinator Daylilies Pollen collector Dog Lover
Moon Gardener Irises Heucheras Vegetable Grower Garden Ideas: Level 1 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Polymerous
Jan 5, 2020 12:34 PM CST
Jan, it's good that you have someone dependable helping you 4 hours a week. It'll be good for Chris, too, if he can get some help from the son. I have some garden help, too, but my boundaries are that my helper leaves the irises and daylilies alone (except for maybe cleaning up dead daylily foliage), because (from previous experience) I can't trust him not to do something I won't like.

You gotta keep that plant lust under control, though! (Yes, I know I should talk, but look at all the trouble it's landed ME in! And yes, that includes cranking out too many seedlings!)

Lilli, sorry that you have vole problems. Maybe a solution would be, when you dig your new iris beds, to line that long trough/bed with a fine mesh wire screen, sort of like gopher caging but fine enough to keep the voles at bay. We've done that to a few spots here and the irises in such spots have thus far been unmolested. (The recent iris losses/attacks are in an area where it's a clump of iris here, a clump of iris there, and the clumps don't have caging to protect them.)

If you want to try more non-bearded irises, and if they would survive your climate (they are only good to USDA Zone 7a here), try an I. japonica or an I. confusa if you can find one. The flower habit is quite different from bearded irises and the blooms are smaller, but the plants are really lovely when in bloom, with multiple blooms open at any one time. They stay in bloom for about a month. Or you could try some I. cristata, which are much more cold tolerant.
Evaluating a reblooming diploid daylily seedling
Piketon, Ohio (Zone 6b)
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Hybridizer
Jan 6, 2020 9:07 AM CST
To become a very active hybridizer as I have many crosses (at least 50) planned for this spring. Also, to continue construction of the raised beds in our new project so I have adequate space for growing the 500 or so selected cultivars which we will be selling beginning in 2021. I will also be building many seed and seedling beds.
Name: Evelyn
Sierra foothills, Northern CA (Zone 8a)
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evelyninthegarden
Jan 6, 2020 11:45 AM CST
H ~ If you are fairly successful with your 50 crosses, you will have a lot of work ahead of you. Even if 50% are successful, you may get an amount between 10 and 60 seedlings each....be prepared! nodding

(I keep being reminded of the "Sorcerer's Apprentice"!) Whistling
"Luck favors the prepared mind." - Thomas Jefferson
Los Altos, CA (Zone 9b)
Irises
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AndreaD
Jan 6, 2020 11:44 PM CST
Wow, Marilyn, you really have thought things through. I haven't scheduled myself the way you have, but I definitely am resolved not to let things go until August when it gets so hot the way I did last year. Starting to replant in June would be a very good idea.

When purchasing new irises this last year, I avoided buying late blooming varieties, because we usually have a heat wave in May (this last year it was actually the third week of April), which fries the late bloomers. Instead, I have been buying SDBs, IBs, and very very early bloomers to lengthen the season from the other end. I will continue this policy in 2020 as well as (maybe) culling some of the late bloomers I already have.

Like the rest of you, I want to cut back on the number of irises that I have as my energy levels are not what they were. I have an awful lot of similar irises (like 17 yellows D'Oh! ), so the plan is to keep a couple of similar irises that bloom at different times in the season and rehome the rest.

I really like irises to grow in big clumps, so, since my space is limited, I need to have fewer varieties to have room for the clumps. Also, I am now trying to avoid varieties taller than 38 inches, since the tall ones take up more space. I have a few favorites (like Material Girl at 48 inches!) which I'll keep even though they are taller than 40 inches, but from now on a tall iris is likely to be culled in my garden.

I like the idea of having big clumps that I can thin rather than digging them up every three years. I'm not sure this technique will work, but I am going to try it.

Now, it must be said that these are MY plans. DH has his own opinions regarding the iris gardens. He likes variety, so for him, the more cultivars the
better, the longer the bloom season, the better, too. Also, he hates culling them. He would never part with any of them if he could. These are matters to be negotiated. Smiling

Sweden
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William
Jan 7, 2020 5:23 AM CST
It is interesting reading all of your plans. Smiling
I don't think mine are really different... but here they are:

I have started concentrating more on the medians, because they are hardier, they can grow in more areas in my garden and usually they don't need staking, not even here in the forest. For the new year I will continue to do so. Last year I also started to add some Siberian irises and a couple of pseudata Iris. For this year I have already ordered more Siberians and a few other beardless irises.

It seems that last years Siberians did quite well in the old kitchen garden and although I only saw one stem in their first year, I really enjoyed their foliage, which is much healthier than the bearded irises, because leaf spot is a big problem for me. I used to grow a few Siberians before, but quit as I never saw much bloom. I think giving them more light as I do now, will be the key to success.

I would like to limit bearded iris purchases for this year. Not only the number of irises, but also the number of vendors I purchase from. It is so easy to buy just one more iris when you purchase, because you are already paying freight, or you may get free freight if ordering more and I just keep making longer and longer lists, buying more than I should. D'Oh! The goal here for me, is to not make more than two bearded iris orders this year. Sadly I'm already half way there. *Blush*

For my potential second and last (hopefully!) order I look closely on what Augusto Bianco introduces this year. The reason behind this, is that he is getting older. Who knows how long he has the energy to continue or if someone will take over after him? Not sure if it is up to date or not, but in the Italian version of his website he still looks for someone to take over.

For the irises I already have, I would like to only grow irises that I truly love, that are easy to grow and that preferably performs well regardless of weather. Others will need to go. Like Andrea I want some big clumps too, and there is simply no place for that, without removing enough irises that it will hurt a little.

Looking forward, I think that with climate change, having really strong irises and diversify into other types of irises will be a good thing.
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[Last edited by William - Jan 7, 2020 5:24 AM (+)]
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Piketon, Ohio (Zone 6b)
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Hybridizer
Jan 7, 2020 5:59 AM CST
evelyninthegarden said:H ~ If you are fairly successful with your 50 crosses, you will have a lot of work ahead of you. Even if 50% are successful, you may get an amount between 10 and 60 seedlings each....be prepared! nodding

(I keep being reminded of the "Sorcerer's Apprentice"!) Whistling


I will be ready.
Name: Marilyn, aka "Poly"
South San Francisco Bay Area (Zone 9b)
"The mountains are calling..."
Region: California Garden Photography Garden Procrastinator Daylilies Pollen collector Dog Lover
Moon Gardener Irises Heucheras Vegetable Grower Garden Ideas: Level 1 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Polymerous
Jan 8, 2020 1:21 AM CST
Andrea, I can't take credit for the "starting in June" idea. A year or so ago, someone else on this forum (maybe it was petruske?) said that they did their dividing in June because the weather was cooler. Good idea!
Evaluating a reblooming diploid daylily seedling
Name: Jan Wax
Mendocino County, N. CA (Zone 9a)
I'm a studio potter.
Hummingbirder Dog Lover Irises Region: California Organic Gardener Dahlias
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janwax
Jan 8, 2020 12:09 PM CST
oops.
Auto-correct is my fiend.
Name: Robin
Melbourne, Australia (Zone 10b)
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Totally_Amazing
Jan 8, 2020 2:36 PM CST
My main goal is to improve my soil and to find a way to control weeds. My garden beds were created by a professional landscaper who decided to use the existing soil which is clay based with a thin layer of topsoil. It is hard as a rock in places. My plan is to build garden edging to raise the beds and bring in new topsoil. I didn't get much done before the hot weather and I am now waiting until autumn. I will probably only get half of it done this year.

In regard to the weeds, I have been trying different mulches over that last couple of years and both have reduced flowering significantly. This year I am going to have no mulch and just pull out weeds when I can. Next year I hope to buy a mulcher and start making my own mulch from removed plant material.

Last year I decided to only buy 3 or 4 irises a year and to cull at least that amount. I managed to stick to this goal. Smiling
Sweden
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William
Jan 8, 2020 2:55 PM CST
Well done, Robin!
Apparently not many of us have that kind of self control as to only buy 3 or 4 irises a year. *Blush* But it is a very good idea!!!
I don't think garden enjoyment necessarily come from adding copious amounts of plants. When adding fewer plants, I believe we tend to enjoy those individual plants more.
Serious discussions about photography: Photography Tips & Techniques forum
Name: Marilyn, aka "Poly"
South San Francisco Bay Area (Zone 9b)
"The mountains are calling..."
Region: California Garden Photography Garden Procrastinator Daylilies Pollen collector Dog Lover
Moon Gardener Irises Heucheras Vegetable Grower Garden Ideas: Level 1 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Polymerous
Jan 8, 2020 4:35 PM CST
Congrats on your self discipline and sticking to the plan, Robin! Thumbs up

So far I have avoided ordering any new bearded irises. (I do have a trio of potted PCIs arriving very soon, but that's a different matter. Whistling )

My problem is that with so many bearded irises, none are grown to their garden potential. So really, they aren't garden ornaments, maybe more the opposite. Therefore (because of space, gophers, sunlight, etc. considerations) a reduction-in-force is required. Hopefully having fewer irises will mean I can/will maintain them better, and they can do their best (even if confined to a pot).
Evaluating a reblooming diploid daylily seedling
Name: Jan Wax
Mendocino County, N. CA (Zone 9a)
I'm a studio potter.
Hummingbirder Dog Lover Irises Region: California Organic Gardener Dahlias
Garden Art Cat Lover Vegetable Grower Birds Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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janwax
Jan 8, 2020 5:04 PM CST
I agree, Robin. Improving the soil is always a good practice. I'm adding worm castings, aged chicken manure and homemade compost this season. DH likes to add rice hulls to fluff it all up.
Auto-correct is my fiend.
Los Altos, CA (Zone 9b)
Irises
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AndreaD
Jan 8, 2020 6:16 PM CST
William said:Well done, Robin!

I don't think garden enjoyment necessarily come from adding copious amounts of plants. When adding fewer plants, I believe we tend to enjoy those individual plants more.


I think you have a point, William. With fewer plants, our attention is less divided!
Name: Evelyn
Sierra foothills, Northern CA (Zone 8a)
Garden Procrastinator Irises Bee Lover Butterflies Plant and/or Seed Trader Region: California
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evelyninthegarden
Jan 23, 2020 4:29 PM CST
The problem: I have too many irises that I purchased/traded in a very short time. My first large orders were only in 2017, then 2018, then a few more in 2019.

The solution: Not an easy answer here... I see many of you are struggling with this one, too. I do need to cull irises, but sometimes I don't know what their performance will be in the third year, and I acquired many in the last two years. So I'll be watching and waiting....

Some of the historics need to grow more in order to donate to HIPS. There are a few that I will eventually remove from this group. And then a few "broken" ones as well. And some irises were bonuses, but they *might* be good breeding material, even if I don't personally love their blooms. Hmmm. Thinking
"Luck favors the prepared mind." - Thomas Jefferson

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