Garden Lore

“I have come to understand the unspeakable loveliness of a solitary spray of blossoms arranged as only a Japanese expert knows how to arrange it…and therefore I cannot think now of what we Occidentals call a “bouquet” as anything but a vulgar murdering of flowers, an outrage upon the colour-sense, a brutality, an abomination.”

Lafcardio Hearn, Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan (1894).

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Dividing bearded irises
This will be the last call for irises on this page for a while, but if you have bearded irises, now is a good time to divide them. This should be done every few years to avoid clumps getting too congested, at which point they will stop flowering. Make sure you don’t damage the rhizomes as you dig them up. Wash them if need be to see what you are doing. Discard any mushy or damaged sections as well as the darker coloured older sections in the centre which have already done their dash. Fresh offsets (where leaves will now be growing) need to be about 8-10cm long before you cut them off so, if they are smaller, keep the parent rhizome with them. Cut the leaves back to about 15cm to reduce stress. Remove any spent flower spikes. Replant by spreading the roots but keeping the rhizome nestling just on top of the soil where it can bake in the sun.

Timing is not critical but done now, the iris has a chance to re-establish its roots and get a good footing before it has its winter rest. Bearded irises need full sun and excellent drainage to prosper.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.