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CAROL'S CORNER - Current Observations for the month......
  •      If you don't subscribe to Garden Gate magazine, I highly recommend you purchase the June 2004 issue.  It has eight pages devoted to iris stuff, with lots of good pictures, too.  They cover a little history of iris, including a fact I did not know that iris originated from the Middle East, even though they are sometimes called German irises. 
         The author of the article commented that a good way to tell if an iris will perform well in your garden is to see if it's won any AIS  awards, such as the Dykes Medal, or Award of Merit or Honorable Mention, because these award-winning irises have been tested and compared to lots of others, so you'll know you're getting a good plant.  Well, I think that the real way to tell if an iris will do well in your garden is if that iris is doing well in your neighbor's yard.  That's why our annual rhizome sale in July is such a benefit to the community.  Local folks can be sure that these iris are grown locally and will do well for them, too.
         The article talks about designing with iris in the garden;  it recommends choosing an area with at least six hours of sun and very well-drained.  Often iris are planted in a mass planting by themselves, so they can take advantage of a sunny, dry, well-drained site.  But I prefer mixed plantings in my beds, or summer-long color.   Even when the iris bloom ends, the strappy, sword-like iris foliage contributes to the many textures in the rest of the plantings.
         They talk a little about re-bloomers, too, but Gary Clark is the only one I know who actually gets some iris to re-bloom.  They don't re-bloom for me, they die instead.  I think the secret may be to plant the re-bloomers on the south side against the house for warmth.  Gary shared that secret with me, and gave me a few re-bloomers last fall, which promptly disappeared from the sheltered bed I put them in.
         There is some interesting information on care (low-nitrogen fertilizer like 6-10-10) and on dividing.  The division part is very descriptive, complete with step-by-step photographs. 
         Now, for the fun stuff.  Starting seed indoors can be very rewarding this time of year.  I've compiled a start up list for our area, based on our average last frost.  When I put this together several years ago, our average last frost was May 27th in Missoula and May 24th in Hamilton.  Generally we have about 111 frost free days. The dates are weeks before last frost.:
  • 3 weeks ahead or about 5/6:
    Broccoli out
    Watermelon inside
    Dahlia bulbs out
    Glad bulbs out
    Harden tenders

    Average last frost about 5/27:

    Corn, beans out
    Tomato, pepper out
    Cuke, melons out
    Marigold out
    Radish out
    Dahlia plants out
    2 weeks ahead or about 5/13:
    Cuke seed indoors
    Radish out
    Lettuce out
    Spinach out
    Nasturtium seed out
    1 week ahead or about 5/20:
    Bachelor button seed out
    Harden tenders
    More lettuce out
    More spinach out