How many irises is too many irises? I don’t ask this facetiously. I really wonder how many is too many. If I had my way I’d probably plant our entire front yard in irises — and if the hot dry weather continues it may just come to that! Because really, I love this plant for so many reasons. Irises withstand heat. They don’t mind sub-freezing temperatures. They make an excellent ground cover even in shady areas if you don’t mind missing out on their blooms. Irises will virtually last forever once planted as long as you divide them every couple of years. They’ve often lain dormant in a corner of my yard for months after being dug during times when the ground has been too hard and dry to transplant them. Iris foliage remains green during the winter, adding a little color to an otherwise barren landscape. Not to mention, their blooms are a highlight of the spring and early summer. They’re really the one plant I can rely on to be there when all the others abandon me! Wow, don’t I sound needy? But it’s the truth. If you want a plant that you can rely on, choose the Bearded Iris.
Irises inhabit several areas of our yard. Some years back I transplanted some from one side of the house into an area beneath several trees in our side yard because grass would no longer grow there. At the same time I was doing that a neighbor a couple of blocks up the street set a wheelbarrow loaded with irises at her curb with a sign that said “Free”. I filled up a couple of plastic shopping bags with this lovely neighbor’s castoffs and added them to my collection. I think they all turned out to be purple, but that’s okay. I’ve come to like the color purple! Two or three years ago my Mom decided she didn’t want her irises anymore, so I dug them up and took them home, growing my collection even more.
Late this summer, after a really good rain, I decided to finally dig and separate the irises out front, something that hadn’t been done in several years because, once again, the ground was just too hard. After separating the rhizomes I cut the foliage back to about six inches and replanted the irises. I’ve continued this ritual following each rain we’ve gotten since then. Even though I’m not finished with this area, my iris patch is already about double the size it was previously. I’ve also been digging and replanting the irises in our back yard. With temperatures forecast to be around 70° on Friday and Saturday, and the ground still gloriously wet from last Saturday’s rains, I hope to get out and do some more damage this weekend!