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Vermont Garden Journal: Dutch And Species Iris

This photo is of the Dutch variety of Iris, taken at the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, France.

We know the taller and later blooming cousin of this spring-flowering bulb, which is native to drier regions of Iran, Iraq and Turkey. The bulb iris, however, grow a little bit differently.

There are two common types of bulb iris: The hardy bulb with fragrant purple flowers and yellow streaks is the species iris reticulata. It grows four to six inches tall, making for a beautiful rock garden and low flower border plant.

The Dutch hybrid bulb irises have larger flowers and are taller plants, stretching up to one to two feet tall. They are often used as cut flowers and come in blue, yellow or white colored varieties.

The species bulb iris bloom around the time of snow drops and early crocus, while the Dutch hybrids bloom about a month later. While the species is reliably hardy to USDA zone 5, Dutch hybrids are not long lived and may need winter protection in our colder climate. Many just grow these as annuals, replanting each fall. A good selling point, though, is deer don't seem to like either of these iris.

Unlike bearded and Siberian iris, these iris grow from fall planted bulbs.

How to plant iris bulbs:

Plant in a full sun on well-drained soil. Loosen the soil well, amend it with compost and plant the onion-shaped bulbs five inches deep. Plant with the hairy root side down and pointed tip up. Water well.

If mice and voles are a problem, add a few handfuls of crushed seashells or oyster shells to the hole to discourage them. They don't like the sharp, pointy crushed shells. For problem critters, consider buying or building a wire cage to sink in the ground and plant the bulbs in.

And now for this week's tip: Harvest winter squash after the fruits have reached their mature color leaving about six inches of stem attached. Place the fruits in a warm, well ventilated shed or garage to cure for a few weeks then store in a 40-degree Farenheit basement or root cellar.

Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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