Planning Your Spring Garden

Shirley Lindsey
Adams County Master Gardener

Confess now. Do you have big ideas about your flower garden when the wintry winds blow and the beautiful slick seed catalogs are delivered to your mailbox?

Are they bigger than in July and August, when the very thought of going out to water, pull weeds or treat for bugs or disease makes you begin to have sweat dripping off your eyebrows? But I do want beautiful flowers to enjoy from my deck or my kitchen window. What to do?

One way of dealing with this dilemma is to plant things that reward you with the most beauty with the least work. One of my special favorites is the tall bearded iris. They bloom in early summer after the spring bulbs have faded and before the annual flowers are at their best. They grow to about two feet tall and thrive in sun to part shade. They do best in well drained soil, and are tolerant of both heat and cold.

There are several advantages of planting these lovely flowers in your garden:

  1. They come in a variety of colors: many shades of blue, pink, rust, purple, yellow
  2. They are one of the few tall flowers that support themselves. Even after a hard shower or high winds, you will find them standing straight and tall and beautiful.
  3. The foliage remains an attractive background after the flowers have faded. Cut back to about 6 inches after the leaves begin to die back.
  4. They make wonderful cut flowers if you enjoy bring the beauty of your garden into the house.
  5. They are bothered by very few pests or diseases and these are easy to avoid

Iris borer can be treated by spraying - do this on Income Tax day, April 15, according to a local expert on growing iris. Soft Rot can be avoided by keeping them open and airy. Keep dead leaves away from them. Do not let the tops of the rhizomes get covered with soil or other debris.


  • Plant them carefully. You will have a rhizome with roots extending from it. My recommendation is to loosen the soil, spread the roots out from either side of the rhizome and cover the roots with soil, pack it down round them with your hands. But leave the top of the rhizome exposed to the sun.
  • Feed annually after blooming with a balanced garden fertilizer, such as 5-10-10.
  • Dig up and separate your tall bearded iris every two to three years. They will become too crowded otherwise. And this way you can share their beauty with friends and neighbors.
  • After they bloom, do not cut back the leaves - they are busy providing nourishment to the rhizome. And they provide an attractive background for other flowers. Cut the leaves to a 6-inch fan when dividing or when they begun to die.

The tall bearded iris yields a maximum of beauty and satisfaction with a minimum of effort.

Read other articles on garden and landscape design

Read other articles by Shirley Lindsey