A bit about the lovely iris

Home - Santa Fe Real Estate Guide - - THEMASTERGARDENERS - FLICKA SLADE

Gar­den­ing in Santa Fe is a chal­lenge. Our poor soils are baked in the sum­mer and frozen in the win­ter. But one of the fa­vorite peren­ni­als of lo­cal gar­den­ers is the tall bearded iris (Iris ger­man­ica). This hearty, drought-tol­er­ant, low-main­te­nance peren­nial not only sur­vives but seems to thrive in the “City Dif­fer­ent.” Now is the time to be­gin look­ing for them in gar­dens around Santa Fe.

Named af­ter the Greek god­dess of the rain­bow, iris come in many col­ors and va­ri­eties, from soft pas­tels, white, bur­gundy, and bronze to blue-black. When it blooms, the iris’ flow­ers are gor­geous and even flam­boy­ant. Wit­ness the Santa Fe Iris So­ci­ety’s plant­ings on the cor­ner of Alta Vista Street and Gal­is­teo Street.

Be­cause of its great el­e­gance, the iris bloom has been the sym­bol of mon­archs and royal fam­i­lies through­out his­tory. One of the ear­li­est known art­works of an iris is a fresco in King Mi­nos’ palace on the Greek Is­land of Crete. The palace dates from 2100 BCE.

The most fa­mous royal use of the iris as a sym­bol of power and po­si­tion was that of the Bour­bon kings of France, in­clud­ing Louis XIV. The iris was adapted on royal ban­ners as the “Fleur de Lys,” the el­e­gant, three-sec­tioned sym­bol that dis­ap­peared from the na­tion’s flag with the French Rev­o­lu­tion but is still quite com­mon in the dec­o­ra­tive arts. In fact, to­day it proudly adorns the beau­ti­ful flag of the French-founded prov­ince of Que­bec, Canada.

Iris are prop­a­gated by rhi­zomes (the brown, root-like struc­ture at their base re­sem­bling a potato) sim­i­lar to bulbs. They are best planted in late sum­mer. Pick a spot with about six to eight hours of full sun per day as the rhi­zome needs to re­ceive a sum­mer “bak­ing” to ripen the sug­ars in­side and en­cour­age the next sea­son’s flow­ers. Never plant too deep— plant them six inches down and you might as well kiss them good­bye. Plant the rhi­zome so that it is half buried, half ex­posed, with the roots ori­ented down­ward and well-spread. Plant rhi­zomes singly or in groups of three with the fans out­er­most, one to two feet apart, de­pend­ing on the size. Af­ter two to five years, when clumps be­come con­gested or lose vi­tal­ity, di­vide and re­plant sound rhi­zomes in fresh soil. The best time to re­plant irises is soon af­ter bloom.

As iris ma­ture, the amount of time you’ll need to spend main­tain­ing them should de­crease dras­ti­cally. Still, even when your plant has been es­tab­lished for years, it’s a good idea to give it a check-up ev­ery fewweeks just to en­sure it has no prob­lems. As long as it is re­ceiv­ing good sun dur­ing the grow­ing sea­son, oc­ca­sional rain­wa­ter, and nu­tri­ents from the soil, it should be just fine.

Flicka lived 30+ years in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia where she had a large, suc­cess­ful gar­den. Lit­tle did she know how dif­fer­ent grow­ing things would be in Santa Fe. She be­came a Master Gar­dener, but had many fail­ures along the way. One of her suc­cesses is iris, her “grand­mother’s flow­ers.” She planted her first rhi­zomes in her Santa Fe yard ex­posed to no shade and lots of wind, but they thrived. She hopes that oth­ers will at­tempt to grow these re­gal flow­ers.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.