Iris on Irises

Iris on Irises

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Iris and her props at the ready

Drawing on her 30 years of experience in operating a local nursery, the Club’s recent guest speaker Iris Burke provided a wide-range of tips on better ways to treat our garden treasures and to protect them from their foes (we’re talking slugs and deer!).

As proprietor of “Not Just Iris’s Greenhouses Inc”, Iris grows a wide selection of annuals, perennials and shrubbery, and has a wealth of  knowledge about their care and nurture. She has, for example, a strong belief in using a little slow-release fertilizer for perennials from spring through to at least mid-summer. She has observed that many gardeners neglect their perennials once they have given them a spring dose to get started.  She also noted that perennials often become stressed during August’s dry spells and that they need to be given water just as the annuals do.

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Iris bloom (cultivar unknown)

As her name implies, she is also partial to irises and she reminded her listeners of the need to divide these plants about every three years, when the centre of the clump has stopped producing new blooms.  She suggested that irises are easy to grow in almost any kind of soil and that they should not be over-fertilized.

In a discussion of pruning methods and timing, she was adamant about the need to cut back certain shrubs to promote more growth and blooms, but cautioned listeners to be sure of the particular characteristics of each bush or tree. A smokebush, for example, blooms on old wood so should not be pruned until after it has “produced” its smoke, whereas a butterfly bush blooms on new wood and should be cut back to about 15 cms above ground in early spring to ensure healthy growth and blooms for the coming season. (our post of August 27, 2012, shows butterflies enjoying the nectar on a butterfly bush).

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A Cotinus (smokebush) in full “smoke” mode

In addition to advice on pruning fruit trees, lilacs and flowering vines, Iris gave a few tips on dealing with slugs (broken eggshells spread around the base of hostas, for example), deer (blood meal, urine, or soap shavings in pantyhose), and earwigs (her own recipe of dish soap and a hose-spray bottle).  In keeping with the  slogan of her greenhouse – “Where things are budding out!”, Iris branched out into a vast array of garden topics and also answered questions from the audience.

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