Iris work in winter

tidying iris beforeThe quiet after the guests have gone. The sitting down job. The peace of an absurdly mild winter. Oh yes, and the chance to rave about my favourite garden plants.  Is there such a thing as an irisophile?

I bet there is. And I know that most people go mad for the flowers. But actually I find them rather blousy and ridiculous. Overbred creatures that can barely hold their stems upright owing to an excess of flower petals at the top.

For me it’s the leaves all the way. Uprights in a garden where so many things are mounds.

My irises are all gifts from friends so it is fun each year to remember just what flowers I have. A sort of Spring surprise. Except for the electric yellow ones.

But winter is the time to attend to them.  You can see here all of last year’s leaves lying dtidying iris almost floweringying on the ground. Still attached to the parent but in need of removal. And a tidy. It doesn’t take long.

Most years, when it’s properly cold, the tiny new growth of pointy leaves will only just be peeking above the soil.  But I had the shock of my life this week to not only find pefectly green leaves, but two nascent buds. About to flower.

Poor things. It is just not warm enough for that madness.  Cold weather of about 4C (plus 4C that is, none of that Farenheit freezing) is forecast and these flower spikes will feel the equivalent horror of being caught out in your pjs without a coat when you remember that you have left the gate to the potager open and hungry deer are about.  This is an 11pm matter that ought not be repeated often. Especially when the batteries in the torch are ailing.

tidying iris replantingBut back to the iris. This is a great time too to be lifting and dividing. They grow brilliantly well here on this farm. Baked in the heat and steadily growing plumper bulbs. Corms? Rhizomes? I think it’s the latter.

So I am always unearthing a few on each end of my long rows and adding more everywhere I can.  It takes a bit of soil preparation first. Which is a polite way of saying ‘you have to heave rocks out of the soil before you can replant’.

Their roots need to be neatly spread out below the rhizome. So I give them plenty of space to grow.

And aren’t they great? Like the garden equivalent of lobsters. The crustaceans of the plant world. The yabbies of the walnut path. Some people cut the leaves back in half to spare the plants the stress after replanting. But that seems crazy to me. There is no stress to the plant while it is mostly dormant.  And tall spikes are the look I yearn for in this plant. arturpensive

I could tell you this particular chore took hours because I had so many to shift and replant; but it’s not true. The sun was blazing and I was having so much fun that I didn’t rush on to the next job with any great urgency.  And when Artur ambled up and decided to help with the planting there was no need to shift at all.