Twenty five years ago Tina and Daughters Iris Garden was started with 300 varieties. How did this happen? I have always felt that it was a very strange twist of fate that brought the garden into being. At the time I was a stay at home mom with 4 very young daughters. I had been thinking of going back into the workforce but really didn't want to leave the care of my children to others. One evening I decided to wander down the road to our neighbors Pat and Rudy Erhart and visit their iris garden. I had been going to Erharts Iris Garden for about 8 years and slowly the vegetable garden I had was turning more into an iris garden. That night Pat told me that they were moving to California and that I should think about taking over the iris business. I really didn't know much about iris except to just put them in the ground and let them grow and I certainly didn't know how to start, market or run a business. Pat told me that she would teach me everything I needed to know and sell me her inventory and a list of customers that had bought from them. I spent many hours with Pat taking notes on the things I would need to know about growing iris, but most of all how to run a business. I did everything she told me to do and feel that her expertise is a part of why we have been so successful all of these years. My husband Steve plowed up the pasture next to our house and helped me get the ground ready. He came up with the name for our business and
If you were to ask me what my favorite iris is, I always respond that "Twist of Fate" from Pat and Rudy is my all time favorite. Not just because I like the two tone blues but because it was given to me as a gift when truly a twist of fate has brought me here today 25 years later in Tina and Daughters Iris Garden.
Twist of Fate
1. Not all rhizomes are the same. Some are very big such as the ones from 'Supreme Sultan' and others are smaller such as 'Schapperalli'.
2. In Montana the top of the rhizome needs to be covered with about a 1/4 inch of dirt to protect it through our harsh winters. I go around in the fall after the iris have been cut down and cover the exposed rhizomes.
3. Iris are drought resistant. This is a good thing for us in Montana where we don't get that much moisture. They do better with a drink of water but can survive if they don't have it.
4. They are deer proof. I have so many deer at my place and would be out of business if they liked eating iris. They have never eaten the iris.
5. Iris are easy to care for. When other flowers need trimming, watering everyday or dusting, Iris just grow and bloom for our enjoyment. My favorite line to people that ask if they are hard to grow is "Do you see any roses in my yard".
6. Iris all have their own unique smell or in some cases, no smell. The iris in my garden that smells the best and is so fragrant is I Padilla. The flower is just a very plain lavender blue that isn't very big, but the smell is to die for.
7.Iris don't change color. Every year someone tells me that their iris changed color and I have to explain how iris clone themselves and point out that mine that are all together have never changed color.
8. What grows well in zone 6 may not grow well in zone 4. I have a little test garden where all of the new iris go to be tested on whether they will grow and bloom well in Montana. I have had to get rid of some that just don't do much here.
9. Iris need to be dug and cleaned out about every 3-4 years. They can just keep growing without being dug this often but they get overcrowded and then don't bloom as well.
10. Never put fresh manure on or close to iris. This is one thing that makes them rot.
11. Another thing that causes rot is if they sit in very wet ground for an extended period. For this reason it is not wise to mulch. Where other plants benefit from this, Iris don't.
12. Iris are sun loving plants that like full sun. If they have too much shade then they don't bloom very well, if at all. When people ask me why their iris are not blooming, the two things I ask them is how much sun the iris have and whether they are overcrowded.
13. Iris need a fertilizer that is very low in nitrogen. Lawn fertilizer or vegetable garden fertilizer is not good for iris. A 10-10-10 fertilizer is considered to be a good choice.
14. Some iris grow like weeds and others take their time. Some iris such as 'Pumpkin Cheesecake' puts out as many as 10 new baby rhizomes every year and others like 'Double Agent' just puts out a couple.
15. Iris need to keep their foliage on for the summer to get themselves set up for the next spring. I cut mine back after a couple of hard freezes in October or November.
16. Reblooming iris can grow well and rebloom in Zone 4. When I first started growing them, so many people were skeptical whether they could rebloom. I have them reblooming most of the summer and into the fall.
17. Reblooming iris need extra water and fertilizer. Extra water seems to make them bloom more often. As a result I have mine separated in a spot that gets water more often.
18. Reblooming iris need to be divided more often to have the rebloom. About every 2-3 years. They are very prolific.
19. A rhizome will only bloom once. They will continue to put out more growth, (baby rhizomes) but they never bloom again. Another reason to dig them up and clean out the old stuff.
20. Iris need to be planted in late summer. It takes about three weeks for a rhizome to get established with a good root system and this needs to be done before a hard frost. For this reason iris should not be planted in the fall in colder zones.
21. Iris are very hardy. They can grow just about anywhere. They like well drained slightly acidic soil, but I have seen them in alleys where it is mostly rock and they bloom like crazy.
22. Iris varieties need to be kept separate because they like to spread out. I always suggest 18-24 inches apart. If planted to close together whatever iris is most dominant (which in a lot of cases is a purple iris) will take over and choke out your other varieties. This is why you hear so often that their iris all went back to being purple. They didn't change color it's just the purple took over.
23. A can of Comet cleanser can be an iris lover's best friend. When iris get to much water, such as rainy springs, then sometimes rot can settle in. If you expose the rhizome to air and cut out the rot spot and sprinkle it with Comet, then a lot of the time you can save the rhizome.
24. Iris come in so many colors except for a true red and a grassy color green.
25. What I consider to be the most stunning iris may not be what others like at all. One of the first things I said to Pat when she was helping me select what iris should be in the garden, is that I didn't need too many reddish color varieties. That was because I didn't really like them. The first year in business that was the color I sold the most of. With time my taste has changed on what I like. Two tones, the broken colored ones with the many splashes of color, and plicatas now hold my interest. I am always looking for something in an unusual color or mixture of color.
10 iris from the very first year we were in business.
Five of our most "silver" iris, in coloring or in name, for our sterling anniversary.
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