arilate irises was bulb rant

Peter Taggart
Sat, 15 Nov 2014 14:19:34 PST
Good advice
Peter (UK)

On 15 November 2014 22:07, Jim McKenney <> wrote:

> I tried my first arilate irises over fifty years ago; they were the
> regeliocyclus hybrid 'Chione' and Iris susiana. Both bloomed, but neither
> lasted more that a year or two more. I still have old Kodachrome
> transparencies of both (or maybe later acquisitions of both).  Subsequent
> trials of Iris susiana in pure grit filched from the local railroad tracks
> (I was still in the thralls of the "good drainage" mentality) resulted in
> plants which, although they persisted longer, gradually starved to death.
> Years later I tried again with a nice assortment When these were received,
> I noticed something about them which at first puzzled me: it was obvious
> that they had been grown in clay, red clay.
> When inexpensive and readily available stocks of 'Dardanus' became
> available in the recent past, I decided to give these plant another try.
> Several other hybrids and species were obtained at the same time. They were
> planted in a raised bed of the local red clay. Most grew vigorously and
> bloomed. Still under the influence of the drainage myth, I assumed that the
> raised bed (it was raised well over a foot high). Most of the plants,
> especially the bigger ones which had bloomed, were already rotting when I
> dug a few in June to check them.
> It was at about this time that I had some exchanges  with John Lonsdale
> about the culture of these plants. What I took away from that was the use
> of polycarbonate sheets to cover the plants after they bloom.
> I joined the Arilate Iris Society in 2013, thanks in part to Dennis'
> preiodic reminders to this list about that group. I obtained fifteen
> hybrids and planted these out in a simple, ground level (i.e. not raised)
> cold frame out in a field (my community garden plots) in late summer. All
> grew and the following year some bloomed. Sometime in May I covered the
> frame with a glass door (I'm getting too old for this and have since
> acquired some polycarbonate sheets). All of these (and some other arilates
> acquired elsewhere) sailed through the summer without a hitch. Many
> retained their foliage, some became completely dormant.
> In this part of the country, arilate irises ripen during May; guess which
> month of the year is typically our wettest month? They will never dry out
> if you don't cover them.
> I got a nasty surprise in September when I removed the glass: no sooner
> was the clean, vigorous looking foliage exposed to rain than it began to
> get spotty and die back.
> But the plants are obviously vigorous and otherwise healthy, and I'm
> already counting next spring's  chickens.
> The frame, which might strike some of you as useless, does have a
> function; it prevents water running across the surface of the ground from
> entering the framed area.
> In the literature, especially the rock garden literature, there are
> articles (some of which read like calculus puzzles and kept me tied in
> knots) discussing drainage. To make a long story short, I think it's
> largely bunk as far as most summer dormant plants are concerned. What the
> plants in question need is not good drainage: as long as they are growing
> actively , they will probably thrive in a pig sty (at least until the pigs
> get them). But as the time for dormancy approaches, what they need, and
> this seems to be non-negotionable, is dry soil. That soil can be dried up
> muck, dried up stable bedding, the local clay dried from its formerly
> waterlogged condition - the sort of soil doesn't seem to matter, as long as
> it is dry.
> When these plants are put into very sandy, gritty media they do get rapid
> water passage; that rapid water passage also takes water soluble nutrients
> with whatever else drains out. It amounts to a starvation regimen.
> Put them in the richest goop you can get your hands on and watch them
> thrive - just remember to start to dry them off as they are coming into
> bloom so that by the time they are entering dormancy the medium around the
> rhizomes is dry.

More information about the pbs mailing list