Siberian Iris

A mid season color

by F. W. Cassebeer

Friends and family who visit

my garden when

the Iris is bloom, often exclaim, “Aren’t these

colorful! What type of Iris are they?” They are

referring to the Siberian Irises, which are planted

in long drifts above the bog garden path. Apparently,

for all their graceful beauty, with flowers poised

like resting butterflies on tall, reed-like stems,

they are not truely known to the, average gardener.

Many times in recent years I

wonder if this type of Iris obtains all the attention

it deserve. Not only are Siberians unsurpassed

for delicate beauty when planted enrnasse,but

individual clumps of them make excellent companion

plant in the perennial border. They flower at

the same time as the Tall Bearded varieties but

for the most part are at their peak just -after-

the latter have passed the height of’ bloom. When

established they require less attention than almost

any other perennial, and are virtually free from

disease or insect troubles and make charming cut

flowers.The original Siberian Irises came from

Central Europe and Asia, where they grew as meadow

plants. The present day hybrids will do well in

almost any type of soil, whether it is clayey

or sandy, provided adequate amounts of humus are

mixed into the soil and the drainage is good.

While they are not water loving (like the Japanese

type) they will tolerate water better than Bearded

Iris, and therefore can be used equally well in

dry spots or beside pools or bogs. They thrive

best in full Sun.

The preferred time for planting

Siberians is late September. Where possible, it

is better to buy small clumps or divisions of’

about five sets of leaves each rather than single

roots. These Irises resent being moved, and if

the subdivisions are too small they require considerable

time to become established and may not bloom until

the second or third year after planting. If the

divisions, which you receive from a nursery, are

very small, plant three or more of them, not more

than two or three inches apart so that they will

quickly form a clump. When planting Siberian Irises,

always keep in mind that they show off to better

advantage if left undisturbed for five or six

years, so be careful to select the best spot for

them before planting.

The roots of these Irises are

long and fibrous, resembling those of other types

of perennials rather than those of Irises. Accordingly,

the roots must not be allowed to dry out at the

time of planting. Be sure the hole is deep enough

so that the roots can be spread out and the soil

firmly packed around them to give anchorage. To

minimize heaving, it is advisable the first winter

to cover the newly set plants with light material,

such as bark or some type of local mulch.

Early in the spring, the old

withered foliage on established clumps of Siberians

should be removed promptly by cutting it off close

to the ground. This is quite necessary to give

the young foliage a chance to make its growth.

Be sure that the clump is kept free of weeds.

Otherwise, grasses -particularly Crabgrass

-may get a foothold right in the midst of a clump

of Siberians, pass unnoticed for a time, and easily

become so firmly entrenched that it is hard to

remove them without mutilating the clump.

To help older clumps maintain

their vigorous growth, a top-dressing of compost

and manure may be applied in the spring or after

flowering. Do not use lime. Siberians prefer

a neutral or slightly acid environment.

Because comparatively little

hybridizing has been done with Siberian Iris,

there are not the many varieties to choose from

at the local nursery than there are in other types

of Irises. The range of colors, up to the present

time, is more or less limited to various shades

of blue and purple, white and purplish red. For

the most part, these are cool, crisp, clear-cut

colors much needed in the garden.

Most of the modern varieties

can be obtained for a six dollars or less, and

it is better to buy three or more of one variety

in order to make an effective clump. A good collection

can be made up of the following varieties:

MABEL CODAY – Ruffled medium

blue with white signal

ERIC THE RED-Wine color, closest

approach to red.

CAESAR’S BROTHER handsome deep

purple, tall and startling.

SNOW QUEEN – Crisp white collected

form of I. sanguinea imported from Japan in 1900.

LADY VANESSA – Ruffled red-violet

falls, standards and styles light wine-red. White

signals. .

TEALWOOD – Flaring velvet purple,

narrow upright foliage.

HELEN ASTOR -bright mauve pink.


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