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Over the years, the show gets better.

One of this month's best buys in spring bulbs is the group sold as Dutch iris. Inexpensive and widely available, these bulbs are easy, prolific, and long-lived. The flowers are long-lasting in the garden or cut for bouquets.

Blue-flowered kinds are most popular, from the earliest-blooming 'Wedgwood' to deeply colored 'Blue Ribbon'. Also widely sold are purple, yellow, and white kinds, and white with yellow falls (the drooping petals). Occasionally you will find some that are smoky blue with brown falls; these bulbs are weaker and more prone to rot away than others.

Solitary flower stalks tend to look spindly the first year, and each color blooms at a slightly different time. Plant each color in a separate clump of five or more bulbs as shown; for a more formal garden, plant in wide rows. Plant the bulbs 4 inches deep, and 3 to 4 inches apart.

The first year, expect one stalk per bulb, but don't be too hasty to cut off spent stalks. A second and sometimes a third flower bud can nestle in the stem just below the first flower.

When all the flowers finish, continue to water until foliage begins to yellow. The more completely you let the foliage dry back before you cut or pull it off, the faster the bulbs will multiply. In a few years, you can have thick clumps of several dozen stems like the ones shown.

Bloom time varies each year with the weather, but often Dutch iris flowers bridge the gap between the last of the spring bulbs (daffodils, hyacinths, tulips) and the beginning of the summer bulbs (agapanthus, bearded iris, daylilies).

To cover bare ground over just-planted bulbs (or older plantings), plant low- to medium-height flowers such as perennial alyssum, evergreen candytuft, coral bells, pansies, or primroses.
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Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Dutch iris
Publication:Sunset
Date:Oct 1, 1988
Words:298
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