The Irises of May

May is a great time in the garden. The plants are full of growth, flowers are coming alive, the weather is good (except when it's not ;) ) and the irises are blooming! Lots of other things are blooming too but the irises are the standouts of the moment. The iris flowers even withstood the harsh rains of last weekend without losing their luster.

Over the last couple years we've gradually accumulated several different irises in the garden. I've only bought one (I like to brag about gardening cheap, I know you do too!), which was recently at the Tennessee Lawn and Garden Show, all the rest came from plant swaps or as hand me downs. The only down side to collecting irises from other people's garden is that you don't always know the cultivar names.  Irises can spread very rapidly and in a few short years one or two irises can turn into dozens! Irises can be divided to make more plants by taking the rhizomes and separating them after flowering through the late summer. Make sure you discard any rhizomes that appear to be rotten or hollow and when you replant the good rhizomes plant them shallow and partially above the soil. It's good idea to divide them every 2-3 years to maintain their vigor and keep your prized blooms blooming! Irises are tough plants so don't be afraid to divide them when needed.

Here's a picture of our birdbath garden two years ago with the first few irises that were planted. It wasn't much to look at then but the garden kept expanding.

And here's the same garden today. The irises flank the rustic birdbath. Behind the birdbath is a butterfly bush full of foliage after being cut back to about 18 inches in early spring.

And a close-up:

This purple iris is a couple shades of purple away from the irises in the birdbath garden. I've mixed it into the rain garden with some yellow irises that came from a plant swap.

In the side garden I've added these white Siberian irises. They are yet another great plant swap find swap and are my current favorite. The stems are smaller, more elegant and fit in much better with the garden when not in bloom than the bearded irises I have.

I also like the backdrop of Coral honeysuckle - I think the hummingbirds like it too!

The hummingbirds seem to enjoy the purple irises in the birdbath garden the most. The fragrance from those irises is a great way to attract the hummingbirds and other pollinators.

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