Welcome to my zone 9a habitat garden near Houston, Texas.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

An iris that will bloom for you. No, really, I promise.

I love the beautiful orchid-like blossoms of the iris. I love the shape and the bright, jewel colors they bring to the garden in spring, but I have never had much success in growing them.

Well, that's not quite true. I can grow them and they create lovely green fan-shaped strappy foliage that is quite decorative in its way. But they never bloom for me, and after all, the bloom is the reason for growing them.

A couple of years ago at the Houston Garden Club's Bulb Mart, I was bemoaning my lack of success with irises to one of the club members as I stood in front of her table admiring the blossoms on display, and she spoke those fateful words. "But have you ever tried growing Dutch iris?" she asked quietly.

Quite frankly, at that point, I wasn't even sure what a "Dutch" iris was, so I had to admit that, as far as I knew or could remember, I had never tried Dutch iris. "Well, you should try them if you like iris. I guarantee they will bloom for you!"

I must have looked somewhat askance at her. "No, really," she said, "I promise they will bloom."

Having been called out by this gentle gardener, I felt compelled to buy some of the iris from her. I bought a couple of bags of the small onion-like bulbs and took them home and planted them. And forgot about them.

Then one day last spring, I looked out my kitchen window toward the 'Old Blush' rose bush and noticed that there seemed to be something blue blooming in front of it. I went out to take a look and discovered to my delight that my bulb gardener friend had not lied. I had iris blooms!

When I went to the Bulb Mart again last fall, I made a bee-line to the bulb house and picked out some more Dutch iris bulbs in different colors, brought them home and planted them. But this time I didn't forget about them. I've been watching them grow their foliage, and this week, right on schedule, I have iris blooms once again.

So far, I have these yellow-and-white and the purple-and-yellow varieties blooming. I believe I bought at least two other colors that should be along shortly.

Dutch iris really are undemanding plants that even gardeners with brown thumbs like me will find satisfactory. They like full sun, although in my yard they don't really get that - more like three-quarters of a day sun. They like good drainage and would prefer a soil rich in organic matter. The bulbs should be planted about 4" deep and about 3" apart to make a good show. Plant them in the fall and they will develop foliage and then flower in the spring.

Once they bloom, they do look great in the garden, but they also make wonderful cut flowers and cutting the flowers does not harm the plant. Just don't cut the foliage. Allow it to die back naturally.

So, if you love the look of the iris blossom but have never had any luck in getting the plants to bloom, may I modestly suggest that you give the Dutch iris a try. I guarantee they will bloom for you!

No, really, I promise.

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