Monday, October 5, 2015

Louisiana's razza-matazz

Watching the build-up is half the fun of owning gorgeous flowering plants. Once you learn how they grow and flower from previous years' experience, you recognise all the tell-tale signs that "they're doing it again" for several weeks before the big colourful show finally gets started.

For me, that's almost as much fun as enjoying the flowers in bloom ... but not quite. And on this mild and sunny early October morning our Louisiana iris 'Gulf Shores' is putting on its wonderful annual show, and as the plants have multiplied, there's even more to enjoy this year.

Each big bloom is fairly short-lived but is then replaced in
quick succession by flowers lower down on each flowering stem. 
Here's what I mean. You can see the unopened
flower buds patiently waiting their turn, while
the show-off higher up on the stem gets all
the morning glory.
Here's where the plants grow, in two water
pots. I'll get back to these a few photos further
down in this posting.
The foliage itself is strappy and lush. The flower
stems start erupting from the leaves about
a month before flowering.
The flower buds themselves are well worth
admiring. The fine sheath around each tightly
wound cluster of petals looks like plastic wrap.
Like many blooms, after all the weeks of the
slow build-up, flowering itself is sudden.
Yesterday there was just one bloom open, and
this morning there are nine. The whole show
doesn't last that long, just a few weeks at
best, but the Louisiana iris show is now, for
me, several weeks of fun watching the
build up, followed by a couple of weeks of
delight when the razza-matazz happens. 

Now, back to those water garden pots, for those who are interested in such things ... 

How's this for a dodgy, improvised solution? The Louisiana iris plants in the original blue ceramic pot were just growing like crazy by the end of last summer, spilling over the sides of the pot, sending out roots looking for new soil to colonise. So I took all the plants out, divided them up and replanted them into two large, wide, shallow bowls. These plants need to sit in a permanent pool of water that's just lapping under the sides of the bowls. To get the water height right around the pots, I sit the pots on house bricks.

Just think of "river's edge" or "banks of the bayou" with water lapping around the roots but not submerging the foliage, and you'll get the idea. Purely as a stop-gap arrangement, just for a week or so until I could find another suitable glazed bowl, I pressed into service one of my plastic gardener's trugs (for Aussie readers, they're less than 10 bucks each at Bunnings). Well, eight months later I still haven't found a suitable ceramic bowl, and the trug is still holding water and doing fine. Being plastic, it won't last forever, so I will get my act together one of these days. 

As for potting up the plants, I treat them like other water plants, making up a mix of 50:50 garden soil and cow manure, and planting them into that. Ideally for acid-loving Louisiana iris, use acid garden soil (pH less than 6.5), and the cow manure is also considered an "acid" fertiliser.

I then cover the soil with small pebbles (to keep the soil surface stable), and scatter slow-release fertiliser pellets on top. "With all that cow manure as well, isn't that too much fertiliser?" you might ask. A Louisiana iris specialist nursery owner once told me that "Louisiana iris are the teenage boys of the plant world," saying it's very hard to over-feed them. And she has been proved right so far. These plants love life, love food and seem quite happy here.

And finally, last but not least ... you might notice there's wire mesh draped over the sides of the blue ceramic pot. This is purely there to make life even more difficult for the cat I have named Wile E. Coyote.

Our goldfish, Paul, who has lived outdoors in the blue ceramic pot, turns six years old next month, and so he's an experienced campaigner, especially good at staying away from Wile E. Coyote, who, true to his 'Road Runner' cartoon namesake, never, ever gives up. 

We find Wile E. out there near Paul's fishpond on many mornings. Pammy has even spotted Wile E. perched up in the nearby grevillea, sitting on a branch looking down into the pond, contemplating the seafood meal he never manages to enjoy. Pammy says "he looks like a leopard sitting on that branch." Alas, the closest he comes to that dream of catching his prey is his nightly bowl of canned Whiskas. Bad luck, Wile E!