The progression of spring flowers is now marching along at a steady clip. Temperatures are rising and that means more perennials are, too. As tulips recede, miniature and dwarf bearded iris are filling in the gaps in the borders.
To my eye, these short bearded iris have all the advantages of tall bearded iris (beautiful blooms, often bicoloured and intricate), but none of their minuses (tall, gangly stalks and leaves). I grow about a half dozen cultivars that have gradually increased over the years.
Hardy to Zone 3 and drought-tolerant, miniature bearded iris do best in well-drained soil with a full to half day of sun. Keep mulch away from the root zone, otherwise the rhizomes, which grow near the soil’s surface, may rot. Remove the flower stalks once the bloom is finished.
This is familiar advice to growers of tall bearded iris, but what is different about the shorter varieties is that they don’t require frequent division; every five years is adequate instead of three recommended for the tall types, unless you want more of these little beauties in other parts of your garden. If that’s the case, divide in mid-August. (More information on miniature iris can be found in Yvonne Cunnington’s in-depth article “Ideal Irises” in Garden Making Issue No. 13. If you don’t have a copy of that issue, we’ve made the article available as a free download from our website.)
Hoop house how-to
One way to mitigate fluctuating temperatures and a short growing season is to erect hoop houses over your vegetable beds. They not only help during unexpected spring cold snaps, they offer shade in the heat of summer and extend the growing season into early fall. “Mini-hoop tunnels boost veggie production” describes their construction and other benefits of these shelters.
Go slowly, please
How many of us have rushed our coddled seedlings out from under grow lights or windowsills and into a flower border or vegetable plot as soon as the weather warms? Consider this a “do as I say, not as I do” PSA, because I’m often guilty of this, especially with basil and tomatoes.
The shock from a sudden move to outdoors is too much for seedlings raised indoors or in greenhouses, and they either keel over or are set back while they take a few weeks to recover. Here is some succinct advice from Westcoast Seeds in British Columbia.
On hold, but not cancelled
“In the year of the virus almost no one saw coming, spring itself seems to be on hold,” writes Tony Spencer of Mono Mills, Ontario, where he has been coping with four days of frosty weather and snow in mid-May. Tony is a garden writer and blogger, and is also organizing The Wildscaping Symposium, an ambitious event on naturalistic planting design that was scheduled for early October in Toronto, but will now be held in the fall of 2021.
As well as providing an update on the symposium at The New Perennialist, Tony highlights online classes and international conferences that discuss garden design and ecological issues which may be of interest to gardeners.
“Biophilia can never be cancelled,” he says.
Enjoy Ottawa tulip festival online
The 68th annual tulip festival in Ottawa is online this year at the TulipTV Tulipe YouTube channel. The online festival lasts until May 18 and features gorgeous panoramic views of the 300,000 tulips in bloom at the nation’s capital, as well as musical concerts, historical photos and tulip growing tips. The festival commemorates the liberation of The Netherlands, 75 years ago.
Newsletter news and reminders
Thank you for your kind comments regarding the resumption of weekly newsletters from Garden Making — this is the 16th. I’m happy you find them useful and look forward to their arrival in your mailbox every Friday afternoon.
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