August 17, 2008

Favorite Flower Bulb: Dutch Iris

Fellow gardeners who have "met" me in one of the gardening forums know that I absolutely love Dutch irises. I also mention these irises as often as possible here on Defining Your Home Garden. There are so many great things to say about Dutch iris that they deserve an article as my all-time favorite flower bulb. I don't have enough of these fabulous flowers. With our 2007 fall drought, I didn't plant any, so I feel like I've lost a year of enhancing my garden with these spring-blooming beauties.

I order my Dutch irises from Van Engelen as they sell larger quantities which lowers the "per bulb" price. If you don't want so many bulbs, there are other companies that sell in smaller quantities. I believe that John Scheepers is the same company as Van Engelen.

If you want an almost sapphire blue with yellow blotches on the falls, look for "Blue Magic". I want to try this one and coordinate that yellow with daffodils (perhaps narcissus 'Arkle').

'Bronze Beauty' has amber/bronze coloring. I have a few clumps of these, but they aren't in a prominent place in my garden. I need to come up with a better idea for companions. The color comes across as very dark.

'Amber Beauty' is a yellow that is on my "must have" list to plant this fall. It looks like a yellow that will work with just about any other color. I believe it will complement the yellow botches in the falls of most of the other Dutch iris colors.

Lavender and purple colors work so well with other color schemes, that I also want to order 'Carmen' and 'Telestar'.

Easy To Grow Bulbs has a gorgeous white/yellow Dutch iris 'Apollo' that is also very tempting to me. In my opinion, their website Easy To Grow Bulbs has the best planting instructions. I want to give this company a try this fall.

The Dutch irises have a very delicate bloom for such a sturdy plant. I've not had to worry about these irises flopping over. They stand tall and straight. The foliage is thin and may be mistaken for wild onions in the spring, so be careful to feel the foliage for an edge to avoid accidently pulling it up.

These irises make great cut flowers! The blooms and stems hold up well in vases. My nepeta 'Six Hills Giant' is usually blooming at the same time. The nepeta blooms and foliage work well in a vase with the Dutch iris stems.

I started taking photos of my Dutch irises on April 13th here in zone 7b. However, they were in bloom at least several days before I took the photos. Those in the sunniest spots bloomed a few weeks earlier than those planted in partial shade locations.

I also like to use nepeta 'Six Hills Giant' or 'Walkers Low' as companions for the irises in the garden. Planting the Dutch irises just behind these perennials is more than just visual. The nepeta will fill out and cover over the dying foliage of the irises.

I plant my Dutch iris bulbs in mid to late October here in my zone in North Carolina. Since the bulbs are small and can be planted 4" apart, I dig up a nice rounded area (a circle) for my groupings. I don't plant these in a row. Within my planting circle, I place at least 9 bulbs to create the mass you see with the nepeta. The irises will multiply each year.

For a smaller space where the irises are accents instead of focal points, I plant at least 3 bulbs together. This fall, my intentions are to tuck these Dutch iris groupings in strategic places in my outer garden. I want to have enough planted to bring in as cut flowers for several weeks in the spring.

The Dutch irises are also deer resistant and rabbit resistant in my garden (your experience may vary). They've not suffered any damage in my garden where they are planted outside the fence. Since they are the first blooms in my garden, I think this is a good testament to the lack of interest from the wildlife.

Happy Gardening!
Freelance travel writer. My current fiction writing projects include a completed manuscript and several works in progress.

By the way, my name is pronounced fred-ah, not freed-ah. Thank you.

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