New parents, like new members of an iris club, are often excited  about their latest life choices.    The  “been there, done that” group of  both sectors might be a bit less excited about what lies ahead than those on their first go around.   New member(s) are often smothered with as much information as expectant parents ... and some of it is as worthless as a hoe without a handle.    

The first ever iris order often arrives while the new member who placed the order has little planting information  that will lead to  horticultural success.   One would think that a functioning society would prepare its expectant parents and train them well for the job ahead with an annual (at least) program on planting and culture .  (Who are we kidding?  WE Americans don’t need training!  Our legislative bodies, religious authorities and social agencies are clueless about most issues and citizens are in near total agreement that if these “experts”  were in charge of spouse and parent training...well, you get my drift!) So we learn by experience and torture.

 How could child rearing and iris growing be related?

  1.  LOVE.  In most new endeavors, we begin loving what we are doing.  Loving what we do is essential to success, iris or children, and  many errors,  difficulties and disappointments are inevitable. 

  2. DON’T THROW  OUT  THE  BABY WITH  THE BATH WATER.  In our haste to be the very best that we can be, we tend to be less cautious than we ought.  How many iris growers decide that they need new soil, new nutrients, new irrigation systems, new garden tools, lots of new irises (too many babies too soon?)  and parents want the best for the infant, including furniture, linens, light fixtures, rom renovations,  etc., etc., ad naseum.

  3. MANY  PARENTS ARE FAR MORE CONCERNED ABOUT GLOWING EVALUATION FROM THEIR PEERS THAN THEY ARE ABOUT WHAT IS BEST FOR THEIR CHILDREN.  Ditto in the garden.  Outrageous investments in having a magnificent new iris garden is just as fool hardy as following the advice of  every parenting “expert” represented in the local bookstore.  The pressure of doing everything flawlessly makes for lousy  parenting as well as frustrated iris growers.  Chill out!

  4. KEEP IT SIMPLE.  A child’s greatest need is unconditional love.  Love it when it screams ... when it vomits ... when it goes to the doctor ... when it is prescribed expensive medications ... stinky diapers... and nocturnal feedings   around the clock????!!!  The thought of it sure doesn’t make me want to be a mother.    If you don’t already love the trials of gardening, expect some  torture akin to breast feeding (ouch!).  It can be pretty frustrating AND painful on a regular basis.

I digress from child rearing, but you do follow me,  don’t you?

I.)  FUN and  PLEASURE.   Make sure all that work doesn’t obliterate your ability to identify all the fun you are having.  Don’t expect instant success.  There are people who have been gardening for years and still do a lousy job, while apparently enjoying it!

 II.)  PLANT IN THE SOIL YOU HAVE.  Don’t start tinkering with chemical fertilizers, chemical sprays, chemical drenches, soil additives and massive drainage and mulching systems. (And mortgage on a new home will not guarantee a perfect child, either.) 

 III.) Elevate your planting bed 12 inches above surrounding areas, choosing either raised beds or raised rows (ridges).  By spring they will settle to half that height.  (You wouldn’t live in a swamp, (would you?), and bearded iris won’t either!)

 IV.) Unless you are choosing areas previously cultivated or (God forbid!) using a worn out flower bed that long ago passed its “prime” rating for performance, careful observance during the bloom season will give clear clues to additives you may want to add to your soil immediately after bloom.  (The doctor will be certain that you upgrade your baby’s diet if it is a weakling as well.)

 V.) Choose a location with full sun.  If it requires tree removal, go ahead and do the dirty deed  now (beware of environmental extremists) and make sure the tree huggers are removed before falling the tree! (If the baby is crawling, keep it indoors.)

 VI.) Cancel all plans for watering continuously during the summer months.  Irises often offer their very best quantity of bloom the spring immediately following horrid heat and drought and will predictably  respond to heavy summer sprinkling with fatal infections of bacterial diseases.  (Baby and parents will permit you to keep the pool filled with  the water that might kill your new irises!)

 VII.)  Leave the poor plants alone. (Don’t spoil them by giving them everything YOU want!) They need to stay undisturbed for at least three years. Resist the temptation to divide and replant – unless you planted them too close together.  Iris plants need  at least 24" between single rhizomes when initially planted.

 VIII.) Keep them clean.  (Babies with soiled diapers  develop  rashes and infections if neglected.)  Trashy iris beds get sick, too.  By starting small, this will not seem so overwhelming.  Grass and weeds always outperform what you have planted. The weed crops will thin with  fine points of culture, soil conditioning and garden maintenance. Keep dead foliage and encroaching “wild” plants removed to allow strong breezes and bright sunshine.  (Irises are not for shade gardens ... so get ready to sweat and lose that fat!)

 IX.) ENJOY THE JOURNEY.  (Remember unconditional love?)  Accept  your slavery as the proverbial “labor of love.”   Trust your intuition.  Listen to everyone else’s big fancy secrets for winning queen of the show and KNOW that much of it is probably  divine intervention.

 X.) RELAX.  Don’t put too much pressure on these poor iris children.  If you think you are a gardening genius, prepare to be disappointed.  If you think you are as smart as the grumbling,  deaf,  annoying, uneducated member of iris your club who wins all the ribbons,  prepare to be revealed as a fool of gigantic proportions.   It is better to enjoy the SURPRISE of success than to reveal your entertaining habit of “inserting foot in mouth”.

XI.) REFLECT.  Once the first bloom season is complete, you have had plenty of time to record, evaluate and implement that free  advice and “special tricks” for iris success.  (If you are into long term planning, go ahead and decide on the university that your child will attend and pay the tuition in advance.)

Gardening is reputed to be good therapy and parenting children  should prove a  positive experience.   If you choose to continue both new venues, both will bring subtle rewards.    Taking your decisions too seriously might transform you into the dumbest poor cuss that ever poked a hole in the ground.

 Properly experienced,  gardening may prove to be a healthy distraction from the grind of daily responsibilities. Be sure that your children will benefit from the time you spend in the garden ... leaving them to their own thoughts. All  teenagers KNOW  that you aren’t the smartest parent in the neighborhood and will be happy to drive the car about town while you are slaving in the sun..

Just do it.  I highly recommend it. We all need a regular chat with the big guy. It will do a body good!