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CAROL'S CORNER - Current Observations for the month......July 2004

    I thought that our next meeting might be a good time to resume our plant trade.  We used to do the plant trade every spring, and I've missed it.  There are a few plants still in my yard that I was introduced to by getting one from a fellow gardener at our plant trade.  Bring your spare plants either potted up and marked, or just dumped into a plastic bag if that's all you have.  We'll set them out on the deck before the meeting and everyone can browse for something new and interesting.  The nice thing is you know you're getting plants that are hardy to our area.

   Only four short weeks until time to dig for the rhizome sale.  I've been marking the ones to dig with bright ties; usually ones that need dividing or I don't like where they are in the garden and want to move them anyway. Bloom has been tremendous this year and of course is still going.  Now the ongoing job is identifying unknowns and deadheading.

   Quite often the old bloom stalks can be snapped off at their base, but if not, they should be cut off close to the mother rhizome.  I try to  carry a pair of scissors with me at all times.  The stalks can be chopped up and thrown in the compost pile.  Any dead leaves should be removed.  Diseased leaves that are removed should not be put in the compost.  Weeding is an ongoing chore and any weeds that have not gone to seed can be put in the compost as well, if you are so inclined.

   This past week, I fertilized all my gardens with an all-purpose, water soluble spray fertilizer.  I plan to fertilize again In July and August.

   Please use care when digging iris for the sale.  When two clumps are growing close together it is very easy to end up with rhizomes from two plants instead of one.  If you dig more than one variety at a time, make sure they are kept well separated and clearly marked.  When I noticed two different varieties seeming to grow from the same clump, I marked their color with a tag and made a note to dig the invading ones for the grab bags, if I don't know their name. Once the iris are dug, most of the soil can be shaken off, any that remains should be hosed off.  Rhizomes can be divided by snapping the increases off or cutting them off.  Unless the old mother rhizome has a lot of small increases, it should be simply discarded.  Trim the roots and leaves.  Rhizomes can be briefly soaked in a mild bleach solution (1/4 cup bleach to a gallon of water) to help eliminate any disease organisms that might be present.  Be sure to rinse the rhizomes thoroughly and set them in the shade to dry.  An occasional shake of the rhizomes while they are drying will help get the water out of the leaf bases.

   When the rhizomes are dry, label them according to the sale guidelines.  Don't bring rhizomes to the sale if they are not a size and quality you would want to receive yourself.  If an iris is a poor performer, don't bring it to the sale.

   Know your plants.  After you have grown iris for awhile, you will notice that some TB's in particular will not make a large rhizome no matter how much of secret super grow you give it.  If the TB rhizome has three or more leaves, the chances are that it will grow and bloom the following season.  Medians will generally bloom the next season, although it may take them a year to settle in.  Siberian iris will quite often take two or three years to really get themselves well established.

   If you dig Siberians for the sale, make sure that you make some provision to keep the root moist.  Most commercial garden operations ship them with the roots packed with moist sawdust or other material and enclosed in a plastic baggie.  We usually bring them to the sorting place in a bucket of water just covering the roots.  Mark your name on the bucket so it can be returned to you.

   See you at the next meeting.   If you haven't ever worked at the sale, come on along.  It's a lot of fun.   Remember, there is no August meeting.

   Oh yes, do you know the difference between a normal gardener and an obsessed gardener?

   A normal gardener can't believe she ordered so many bulbs last fall.  The obsessed gardener thinks it wasn't enough.