Friday, July 6, 2012

Iron Irises

A couple of years ago, my sister gave me a box containing a couple of dozen iris corms from her garden. We were still working on our garden and I didn't know where I really wanted them to go, so I planted them in a corner that wasn't yet occupied and forgot about them.

They thrived, and outgrew their corner.

I was advised to divide them; just dig up the clumps, cut off the "daughter plants" from the "mother plants" (what a thing to tell a mom who is this close to having an empty nest) and plant the daughters in their new location.

Sadly, the mother plants were to be thrown away; my iris mentor said I should toss them in the compost heap and congratulate them on job well done. I wasn't totally comfortable with that idea, but I promised to follow her instructions and be a good iris grower.

Little did I know how promiscuous those iris mothers had been. Or how ruthlessly I would deal with them after carefully digging up and dividing the first few clumps.

Each and every one of those original irises had managed to produce a bumper crop of daughters; 15-25 each would be my conservative estimate. After carefully separating and trimming the first 25 daughters from their mothers, I realized (with a certain amount of horror) that I was now looking at a pile about the size of that original box of iris corms. If I were to continue dividing and planting, I would have enough irises to plant our entire yard, which is already pretty well planted, thank you very much. I had prepared two small sections of the hill for these irises; sure, there's more hill that I could prepare, but I was beginning to see myself in a bizarre version of The Sorcerer's Apprentice if I didn't do something drastic.

And then I thought of the ditch.

We have a good-sized ditch running across the back of our yard; last spring, I cleared the weeds from it, but we hadn't planted anything there, because there really isn't any way to irrigate it, and California gardens thrive on irrigation.

My iris mentor had told me that there was a chance that irises could survive without irrigation in my yard; this year, we will find out. I stopped dividing and begun digging up great clumps, which I wheel-barrowed over to the ditch and planted, more or less. Let's just draw a curtain over that scene and say that they were not coddled.

So, I say, "Let the Iron Iris Contest Begin!"

If these don't survive, I have no doubt that there will be many new contenders in a couple of years.

1 comment:

Kokopelli said...

Wow, what an iris flooding! My parents tried to grow them for years in their garden with no success. Beautiful!