Novice surfer masters pro move: Punching a shark to escape it
and the craze soon spread to England and America. By the 1920s, the bearded iris ranked No. 3 as most popular perennial grown in American gardens.
Like all crazes, the iris’s popularity slowly faded; and today, although bearded irises are still grown by gardeners, many people are unaware of their beauty or their long and interesting history.
My cousin, Bill, who has grown bearded irises for many years and has even bred and named his own unique cultivars, was happy to share some of his tips for growing them.
“Living in southern Idaho, the weather is perfect for growing bearded irises. The number of bloom colors is endless … it’s like growing a rainbow,” Bill said. “Bearded irises are good for people who have little time to garden because they don’t need a lot of care and are droughttolerant.
“In the desert, plant rhizomes during October or November once temperatures are below 90 degrees. Before planting new rhizomes, swish them in water with 10 percent bleach added and rinse them off in fresh water. This will kill any organisms that might cause disease later on. Soak the rhizomes for 48 hours in fresh water before planting in order to speed sprouting. In the desert, irises need at least six hours of sun daily but require afternoon shade to prevent sunburn. Up north, irises can be planted in full sun.”
Bill recommended planting rhizomes in prepared soil that has been loosened and amended with a lownitrogen fertilizer. A good soil combination is onethird garden soil, one-third sand and one-third compost. The soil pH should be close to neutral, and the soil needs to be loose enough to provide good drainage.
“To plant, dig a hole about a foot in diameter and four inches deep. Mound the soil in the center of the hole so that when the hole is filled, the top of the rhizome is covered with about an inch of soil to prevent sunburn. Up north, the top of the rhizome is left exposed when planting,” Bill explained. “The mound helps drain excess water away from the rhizome’s roots so they don’t rot. Sprinkle one tablespoon Triple Super Phosphate (0-45-0) or bone meal over the mound and place the rhizome on top of the mound, spreading its roots over the sides.”
Bill noted the plant’s roots grow ahead of the rhizome while its leaves, growing at the opposite end of the rhizome, lean away. A newly planted iris will take one to two years to bloom, depending upon the rhizome’s size.
“When in bloom, a green, bulbous seed pod forms at the bottom of each flower. It is best to cut off these immature seed pods once flowering is done, unless you wish to grow rhizomes from the tiny seeds nestled inside the pods. By removing the seed pods, the plant can put its full energy into growing a larger rhizome with healthy roots and leaves.”
Bill has often crossed irises to create new flower colors.
“I use a toothpick to scrape pollen off the three gell-covered mounds inside the flower and place that pollen on a flower from a different colored iris. I tie a string around the pollinated flower’s stem to remind me which pods I need to collect later on. Once the pollinated flower dies, the seed pod grows larger and larger. When the pod is fully mature, it turns light brown and hardens. I cut off the dried seed pod and open it on a newspaper. The pod splits into three sections filled with tiny, black seeds.”
Bill recommends letting the seeds dry overnight before storing them in an empty pill bottle until time to plant in the fall.
“I write the names of the two iris varieties I crossed on the outside of the bottle. Before planting the seeds in spring, I soak them overnight to soften the outer coating to speed sprouting time.”
“There is nothing as exciting as watching your own seedlings sprout and display new colors of flowers,” Bill stated. “However, you will have to be patient because it takes seeds several years to produce plants ready to bloom. Sooner or later, you will be gifted with a new and unusual color you created, and that is really exciting. Of course, the fastest method is to plant mature rhizomes.”
To prepare plants for blooming, in February, apply Scott’s Super Bloom (12-55-6) every two weeks according to package directions. By mid-March, bearded irises begin blooming and will bloom through May. Continue fertilizing throughout the blooming season and two weeks after blooming is done.
When watering, a moisture meter can help maintain correct soil dampness, since too much water will rot the rhizomes. Insert the moisture probe into the soil to its full depth to make sure the irises’ roots are getting adequate water. Their leaves do not die like tulips or hyacinths, and once blooming is finished, the plants continue growing throughout summer.
Every three or four years, you will need to divide your iris clumps. Decreased number of blooms, fewer leaves, and rhizomes pushing out of the ground are all signs it’s time to divide. Wait until fall to divide iris clumps. Dig up the rhizomes, trim the leaves to six inches and cut off old or rotten portions. If a rhizome feels soft, throw it away. Cut the rhizomes into three-inch pieces, leaving a fan of leaves and roots attached to each piece. Re-plant cut pieces and share any extras with fellow gardeners.
Tucson Area Iris Society, TAIS, holds an annual iris sale the end of September and sells member-grown rhizomes. You might want to purchase a few plants for your garden at their sale. Check tucsoniris.org for more information.
These easy-care plants can reward you with beautiful blooms in a rainbow of colors.
CANBERRA, Australia — A novice surfer mastered a pro’s move on the first try: He punched a shark on the nose to escape its jaws.
The attack Monday afternoon off the Australian coast left Charlie Fry with superficial puncture wounds on his right shoulder and upper arm.
A British doctor who arrived in Australia two months ago to work, Fry said Tuesday he had recently watched a YouTube video in which Australian professional surfer Mick Fanning described his famous escape from a great white shark during a surfing competition in 2015.
“So when it happened, I was like: ‘Just do what Mick did. Just punch it in the nose,’” Fry told Nine Network television. “So Mick, if you’re watching or listening, I owe you a beer. Thank you very much.”
Fry, 25 and a surfing beginner, was in the water with three doctor friends when he was attacked off Avoca Beach, 90 kilometers (60 miles) north of Sydney.
“I was out surfing and I got this massive thud on my right-hand side; it completely blindsided me,” Fry said.
“I thought it was a friend goofing around. I turned and I saw this shark come out of the water and breach its head,” he said.
“So I just punched it in the face with my left hand and then managed to scramble back on my board, shout at me friends and luckily a wave came, so I just sort of surfed the wave in,” he added.
Fry said he wasn’t conscious of his injured and bleeding arm until he reached the shore.
“I didn’t really notice it at the time because when you’re surfing, all I’m thinking was: ‘I’m about to die. I’m literally about to die,’” Fry said.
“So I thought ... ‘get in as fast as possible, ride the wave for as long as you can and then just start paddling for your life,’” he added.
Fry’s friends drove him to Gosford Hospital, where they all worked, to be treated. The beach was closed for 24 hours.
Lifeguards spotted the 3-meter (10-foot) shark that attacked Fry close to shore and would use drones on Tuesday to check that it had left the area, Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported.
Fry said he could not return to the ocean for a week due to his injuries, but “after then, I’ll be racing to get back in.”
Fanning was competing at the J-Bay Open in South Africa two years ago when he was knocked off his board by a shark yet escaped unscathed. The video of the attack and Fanning speaking about it has been viewed more than 24 million times on YouTube.