July 3, 2009
This week’s radio show looks into native pollinators, and also, tall bearded iris care.
Divide to Conquer Tall Bearded Iris
Some of the leaves of my tall bearded iris, especially the newest varieties, look horrible -- streaked and tattered. These plants do not bloom for more than two or three years unless they are divided, so I might as well treat them for critters while I am at it.
Iris borer is a real problem. I dig up my iris rhizomes with a garden fork when they are dormant – now. Most of the soil will fall off the thick rhizome and slender roots. I trim back the leaves into “fans”, and cut off the oldest section of rhizome (which will not bloom again). I dip the rhizome (holding it by the leaves) in a 10% solution of household chlorine bleach for about ten seconds. I set them out to dry on some newspaper, and then replant with the top of the rhizome just at the surface of the soil. Sun-baked rhizomes bloom best.
Most of the iris plants will blossom next spring, and the rest, the following year and for a few more years before dividing calls, again. It’s easy, and fun.
LEFT TO RIGHT: Older varieties of tall bearded iris (Helen Collingwood, 1949) do not need dividing as often as newer ones.
Trim foliage into “fans”, and keep only the newest (youngest) rhizome growth.
Dip rhizomes in a solution of 10% household bleach for ten seconds.
Take a Bee to Lunch
National pollinator week was June 22 to 28. A symposium was held at the Smithsonian Institution featuring the NAPPC – the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign, which represents more than one hundred agencies, government and non-government institutions, garden and grower groups, scientists, and other concerned citizens from Canada, Mexico, and the United States.
The goal is to encourage the health of resident and migratory pollinating animals in North America. This is important for people, too, in numerous ways, including for food, over 30% of which depends directly on pollinators. The NAPPC not only cares about insects like honeybees, but butterflies, bats, birds, flies, beetles and most of all – native species of these animals. We’ve all heard about problems with European honeybees, but several of our native bumblebees are also in trouble – mostly due to habitat loss.
Check out this week’s show. You’ll hear about things you can do for local pollinators right in your own garden, but you’ll also learn of a rather insidious plan to import European bumblebees for hothouse tomato production – a scary idea, if you ask me.
Below: Native bumblebee and buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)