Fall garden duties got underway here today when I tackled dividing the iris in the cutting garden. This is kind of a big job that needs to be done every 3-4 years; these iris spread rapidly and quickly become overcrowded and vulnerable to rot and iris borers if not maintained.
The hardest part of the job is prying the plants out of the ground. They are surprisingly reluctant to let go of their grip in the garden. Once they’re dug out it’s simply a matter of teasing them apart, removing the old rhizomes and cutting back the leaves and roots to make them a little more manageable. Here’s an example of a rhizome before clean up.
I also keep a close eye out for evidence of the dreaded iris borer – I’ve seen this little monster wipe out entire beds of iris in a matter of weeks. The iris borer is the catipillar of a butterfly that lays it’s eggs in a damaged or open piece of leaf. After the borer hatches, it makes its way down the leaf to the rhizome where it consumes the rhizome from the inside out. Yeah. Gross. And smelly too. Believe me, you don’t want to come across an infested iris.
Today was a good day – no iris borers and an abundance of new plants (and I still have another bed to dig up!) I’ll replant some in a new bed, but still have lots. These are a classic, old-fashioned pass along garden plant – tough, adaptable to many weather conditions, and easy to divide. I got my starts from my Mom many years ago and she, in turn, got her starts from my grandmother many years before that. I’ve passed many on myself. I like that I’m continuing this legacy. In fact, my across-the-alley neighbor came over while I was digging this morning and offered to pay for some divisions. Of course I simply gave her some – you don’t take money for pass along plants!
If you’re interested in getting a few of these old-fashioned beautys, let me know and I’ll see about getting them to you (no guarantees!). They need full sun and excellent drainage, bloom about mid-May here in Zone 5, are a light lavender blue color and smell heavenly. Here’s a reminder of what they look like in full bloom.