If you have a soggy area around your place that you don’t know what to do with, have I got a plant for you? Japanese iris (Iris ensata) has the largest flowers of all iris, anywhere from four to eight inches across. They have lovely large flat either single, double and peony-type forms, in various colors and patterns. Singles have three falls (the lower flower petals of iris), doubles have six and peony-type has nine or more. Bloom time is from late June to July about a month after the tall bearded and Siberian iris
Japanese iris leaves are taller and thinner than bearded iris leaves and similar to Siberian iris. A good way to distinguish Japanese iris is by the rib that runs lengthwise down the leaves.
They require full sun, a rich, acidic soil and ample water. They prefer a rich soil containing organic matter, which helps in water retention as well as adding nutrients. Japanese iris are heavy feeders. Use an azalea-type fertilizer in the spring, just after bloom. I like to use cotton seed meal. You can get a 50 pound bag at the Co-op and use left over’s on your blueberries and azaleas. Keep the pH between 5.0 and 6.5. Do not use lime as it raises the pH and will kill the plants eventually. Use a with a biweekly application of a water soluble acid fertilizer such as Miracid on the leaves and around weak plants. Japanese are generally vigorous growers and a spacing of three or four feet between plants is needed. Two to three inches of mulch will help hold in water and reduce weeds. Two to three year old clumps usually have the best blooms. They grow in zones 4 through 9.
I have mine in a low area that gets the runoff from the down spout drain of the barn as well as run off from my Mom's yard. They really like water. Lack of water will stunt the plants and produce miniature blooms. A good place to plant them is near a pond or stream.
When planting allow plenty of room for Japanese iris to spread. They should be planted two to three inches deep in a depression which will allow it to catch water. Mulch well and do not let the plant dry out. New roots will grow above the old roots and after three or four years the roots will start coming out of the ground, a signal that it’s time to divide. Another sign that division is needed is a clump that has formed a solid ring with a bare center. Best time to divide is in the spring. After the plants have been divided, trim the leaves to a height of four to six inches. Do no plant in an area where other Japanese iris have grown as the plants will be stunted and eventually die, unless it is an area that has lots of water leaching through it such as soil under a downspout or by the side of a stream. They can be replanted in pots if fresh potting soil is used and the old soil discarded. Apparently they secrete some sort of toxin into the soil while growing that is toxic to other iris. When replanting in an area which contained Japanese iris, plant something else beside iris.
For overwintering, remove and destroy old foliage after the first hard frost which may contain borer eggs or thrips.
Back to this year’s goals as I call them instead of resolutions; I thought I was in great shape until I received a 15% off card from Bluestone Perennials if an order was placed by a certain date. I had made a wish list that I discarded, but after logging onto their website, my order that I thought was discarded when I logged off was still there. Well —- you know the rest of the story. The weather has been wet and a tad on the warm side. Water is standing in my garden paths and even with just a couple of tenths of an inch, water puddles. When ever my plants come in it’ll be to soggy to get in the ground. My daffodils are blooming; bluebirds are building nests, daylilies coming out of dormancy and fruit trees budding. I can hear my John Deere calling me to come out and play. Two years ago we had a warm January and we had snow and a hard freeze in March that destroyed whatever fruit was on the trees and strawberries.
The hooligans are doing okay as far as their resolutions, except Levi. He just loves to rub on me, especially if he’s wet. I’m not sure what pleasure he gets, but he rubs and moans while doing it. The rest of his resolutions, he’s been too busy sleeping to think about. One morning I’ll get my video recorder charged up and show what I go through in the morning with these three when I open the garage door. The other morning I was running late for work and opened the back door of my truck. He jumped in with his wet feet autographing a invoice I had placed on top of a calendar, put his, back feet on the back seat, front feet on the console between the front seats and looked straight ahead out the front windshield saying lets go. While trying to get him out, Patches decided she was going to go also.
This past weekend I visited a nearby wildlife refuge and was able to get a couple of shots, err better make that pictures of a couple of the endangered whooping cranes over wintering there. Next weekend, it’s down to Wilson Dam trying to get some pictures of the bald eagle that fishes between 9 AM and 9:30 every day like clockwork. The next weekend, I’ve been chosen for an artistic show at Coldwater Bookstore in Tuscumbia. I’ll be showing off some of my calendars, cards, and pictures.