Into The Trenches

“You DO know how to plant iris, don’t you?” the gardening doyenne inquired when I offered to help her during a community work day in a Memorial Garden.

“Ummm, I think so.”

Well, it turns out I really didn’t know how to plant iris at all. And that explained why mine were healthy specimens but rarely bloomed. You see there is a trick to it. It’s called trenching:



Planting too deeply is the mistake most novice iris growers make.  In fact, the rhizomes really want to sit right on top of the soil – something which makes most gardeners a bit nervous. The trick is to make sure the roots are buried but not the rhizomes themselves.

You achieve this by digging a little trench, placing the rhizome on top of it and then dangling the roots along the sides of the trench.

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Sprinkle a little slow-release fertilizer over the roots, cover with soil, and water in well. And that should do it. This is how your mature iris should look at ground level with the rhizomes sitting right on top of the soil:



Last year I could not pay anybody to take my overgrown iris off my hands. So I heartlessly threw them into the woods. And this is happening right now:


Yes, abundant iris are now growing along the edge of my woods.  The roots probably landed in lots of good leaf mulch and the rest is history. Talk about a low-maintenance, sturdy plant. Moral of this story: Don’t Plant Too Deeply!!

Here are a few of my better specimens:

Have you ever seen an iris this color? This one is a pass-along from an elderly gardener I met years ago. I would love to know its name and until then, we’ll call it Iris “Murdoch.”


This is Iris “Hemstitch.”


Two years ago we went to Roanoke, VA for Historic Garden Week. We were walking the boys along a country road when I spied iris growing in an abandoned cemetery. They had already bloomed so I had no idea what color they were. Beloved Husband dug a few rhizomes out of the rock-hard soil and I planted them as soon as we got home. Last spring they multiplied at a furious rate but didn’t bloom. This year…..yippee!!! I call them my Cemetery Iris. Or maybe they should be “Patience Rewarded.”


Bought these at a Mennonite farm stand way out in the country. No variety name given:


Where’s Berkley?

This is Iris “Slovak Prince”


And this little beauty is Iris “Ringo.”

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Another unknown variety:



We can’t talk about iris without at least a mention of a real favorite, the Siberian Iris. This one is called “Caesar’s Brother” for its noble purple color:



A final word from my beloved Mr. Beverley Nichols on iris:

However solitary you may be by nature, however averse to entertaining and giving parties, don’t you find that there are times when the sweet peas, as it were, send out their own invitation to tea, or when the irises inform you, in no uncertain voice, that they will be “at home” next Sunday afternoon?

About Silver in the Barn

Life in a 1915 farmhouse in Central Virginia. And the odd thought or two.
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17 Responses to Into The Trenches

  1. Sue Mayo says:

    They are all beautiful.


    • Thanks, Sue. They are my very favorite….after daylilies, and peonies, and….never mind.


      • Sue Mayo says:

        I have an original watercolor of iris by my friend Wayne Chambers. He moved from Woodlake to Savannah, GA to open his own Gallery. If you are ever down that way go visit his gallery. He is the best at painting flowers I think I’ve ever seen. The iris is my favorite.


      • I remember seeing that painting and all of his other paintings in that waterfront house of his years ago. I’ll remember to see his gallery next time we’re in Savannah. Thanks, Sue.


  2. Sheryl says:

    The iris are lovely! I really like how they are so easy to grow, and how they work well intertwined with grasses and wildflowers in very natural settings.


  3. Mary says:

    I had no idea that you had so many varieties of Iris. Did the “Mary Christine” iris ever bloom?
    I love that your woods are becoming more beautiful due to your gardening rage! COL!!!


  4. Lovely collection! Wish you we’re closer – I have some adorable little one’s you would love. Perfect for the front of a border!



  5. Dianna says:

    Oh, all these remind me so much of my mother. Although on a very limited budget, she scraped together a few dollars to order iris rhizomes from a catalog. She and her sisters “traded” them. Mine are just “Walmart” variety, but I love seeing them bloom. (I hate separating them though…) Yours are beautiful!


  6. Diane Ahlberg says:

    All your varieties are wonderful – they do seem to multiply faster than most other flowers , sturdy
    I think of them as my mother and grandmother”s flower
    Your woods are starting to look like an extension of the “formal” garden
    How cool to drive down the long drive and find presents!


  7. dorannrule says:

    You are obviously an expert iris grower! These examples are breathtakingly beautiful. 🙂


  8. What gorgeous varieties, Barbara. Is Caesar’s brother the one you passed along to me? I can’t wait to see it bloom! By the way, next time you need to divide and pass along some of your beauties, please remember this iris loving friend 😉 Best wishes, WG


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