Monday, May 12, 2008

Small But Mighty

Topping out at 5'2" tall, for most of my life I've been what some people consider "height challenged." I got a reputation as a "goody-two-shoes" since the seating in school was often shortest to tallest and sitting directly in front of the teacher made it difficult to get away with much. But like the West Highland White Terriers we have owned, I often have not perceived myself as little and once thought my daughter-in-law, Melanie and I were nearly the same height (she is 5'7"!). Our Westie, Lady, once stood her ground on a lonely beach when she was charged by a Black Lab, causing the Lab to turn tail and run in the opposite direction. The heart throb of our current Westie, Sassy is Alex, a German Shepherd that towers over her. Like my dogs, I've never let my size stand in my way and I can hold my own in basketball with my 6'2" tall son, Jeremy. Which brings me to the subject at hand --- Dwarf Bearded Iris.

Baby Blessed Dwarf Iris

Many gardeners may be unfamiliar with dwarf iris since they are generally only available by mail order. These sturdy little plants are the first bearded to bloom in the spring which in our location in New Jersey coincides with the blooming time of tulips. They are available in a wide array of colors, similar to their tall bearded cousins. Their diminutive size make them excellent border or rock garden plants.

Prank Dwarf Iris

As with other bearded iris, shallow planting with good drainage and at least a half day sun are a must. Since they are shallow-rooted, winter heaving may be more of a problem than with their taller relatives, so it is helpful to apply a light mulch after the ground has frozen.

Pele Dwarf Iris

They should also be protected from encroachment from other vigorous perennials in the rock gardens. Although delicate in appearance, these hardy plants hold up well under light frost even in bloom. Varieties such as Pele, Sarah Taylor, and Gimmick may be small, but they can have a big impact in your garden.

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