Flora Borealis - November, 1988

Excerpts from the SPS Newsletter Volume 1, Number 4, edited by Ted Christensen

You'll see a name, at last, on the masthead of our SPS publication. This is a personal choice, based on my own taste (or lack of the same). Suggestions weren't exactly flooding in, and I did feel that we needed something snappier than just "Newsletter". However, "Flora Borealis" isn't quite graven in stone, so if anyone cares to advance another title it could still be changed.

The November 14th Annual Meeting will set the course for our SPS. You don't just decide upon the framework for our organization and select the people to do the chores for the coming year: you establish directions and goals. Societies such as ours are only of value if they meet the needs of the members, and they can only do so if the members define those needs, loudly and clearly. Do come to the meeting, and do make your ideas heard.


Seed: Costly but highly nutritious form of bird food sold in handsome packets printed with colorful pictures of flowers and vegetables.

Honeywood Lilies & Nursery, Parkside Saskatchewan submitted the following.

Cultural Requirements for Iris

Iris are mainly early flowering perennials that fill the blooming period after the tulips and before the peonies.

Iris like full sun locations and seem to thrive under a variety of soil types and conditions. They are not heavy feeders, so do not require special fertilizers. Wet soil is a deadly enemy, so choose a location with good drainage. In heavy soils, drainage may be improved by using sand or gravel immediately beneath the plants.

Iris grow from rhizomes, which are fleshy thickened stems. From these rhizomes grow the roots; they usually develop in two ranks, one on either side of the flattish bottom surface of the rhizome. When planting iris, it is important not to plant the rhizome much more deeply than the soil's surface, but survival depends on well covered roots. To achieve this, one prepares a planting trench in the following manner: dig a trench about 15-18 cm ( 6-8 in.). Into the bottom of this trench replace good quality soil making a small ridge so that the top of it is just short of the ground's surface. Now gently settle the iris into this trench letting the rhizome ride the top of the ridge, and arrange the roots downward on either side to the bottom of the hole. Pull the soil in to cover the roots, but be careful not to bury the rhizome. Ideally, it should sit about soil's surface, with about half of it covered, but the top half exposed. Mulch well, especially the first fall after planting.

Iris grow outward from the original plant. They may be divided once they form large mats, or if the centre of the clump begins to die out. Few pests bother them.

Cultural Requirements for Peonies

Peonies are very long-lived perennials and may provide color in one's garden for twenty or thirty years without much special attention whatsoever. They are relatively pest free, and are not harmed by ants (to the contrary of old garden lore). Ants feed on peony buds collecting the sweet sap that exudes from the rapidly swelling buds. Occasionally the sap also attracts aphids, which may in turn provide a stronger draw to ants, but vigorous plants will suffer no damage from this sort of insect attention, and buds will develop correctly. Improperly developing buds, or buds that dry up are indications of botrytis infection (a fungal disease). Any good fungicide applied at the time buds become apparent will ease this situation.

Plant peonies in full sun locations, or where they will receive at least half day of full sun. They are not particular as to the soil they grow in, but being heavy feeders it pays to enrich the soil before planting and to provide top dressings annually of quality compost or well rotted manure. (Never use fresh manure as this promotes rots of both crown and roots). Plant the tubers with the majority of the eyes no deeper than about 3-5 cm below the soil's surface. Planting too deeply will inhibit flowering and too shallow planting will result in the plants freezing out over winter. Mulch well especially for the first winter. Division will not likely be necessary for eight or ten years, and even then plants often continue blooming well for years. Newly planted stock will take three to four years to settle in and resume flowering.

Cultural Requirements for Lilies

All lilies require a well-drained location. They adapt to a variety of soils, but special care should be taken when planting them in heavy clays to provide for proper drainage. Avoid low spots that flood during heavy rains or during spring run-off. A handful of sharp gravel at the bottom of each planting hole will ensure good drainage in heavy clays. This will prevent basal and root rots; this is the cause of many losses in such soils.

Most lilies do best in full sun locations, but will perform reasonably well with a half day regime of sunlight. The martagon class will tolerate light shade, though dappled sunlight for a part of the day at least will ensure better blooms on these also.

Lilies are not heavy feeders, but do benefit from fertilization in lighter soils especially. Nitrogen is good for enhancing foliage color and growth, but too much will result in very lush growth, poor flower quality and susceptibility to a fungus disease called botrytis. It is best to have your garden soil tested, and then to follow recommendations precisely. Bone meal may be annually incorporated as a top dressing and worked into the top few centimetres of soil. This will take care of the phosporus requirements of your plants.

Lilies are adaptable to the acidity or alkalinity of most soils, doing well over a wide range of pH conditions.

Depth of planting of the bulbs depends on particular conditions. Mostly, bulbs are planted with 10-12 cm (4-5 in.) of soil over the bulbs. For additional anchorage in windy locations, you may plant deeper, even to 25 cm (10 in.). This deeper planting will however delay emergence in spring and may somewhat delay the blooming period. This may be used to advantage in areas prone to late spring frosts.

Lilies should be mulched through their first winter, especially in areas with unreliable snow cover. These mulches can be left in place for future years also, as lilies do like cool feet and any soil covering will help to keep soil temperatures cooler. It will also reduce evaporation, hence conserving moisture. Where moisture is abundant, lilies may be underplanted in shrub borders, or they may be overplanted with low growing annuals or perennial ground covers.

Lilies are best planted and divided after the tops have matured in late fall. This provides time for a new set of roots to grow and prepares them for the rapid growth that starts very early in the spring. Spring planting is sometimes practiced, but this must be done early before any sprout activity is evident. Spring planted bulbs will grow and survive, but rarely perform well the first season.

The only disease that may trouble lilies is one called botrytis. This fungus-produced disease likes cool moist conditions, and often attacks during rainy weather. It first makes tiny pin-hole spots in the leaves, buds or petals. These enlarge under favourable conditions to patches and blotches and may continue to burn the plants until all foliage and flowers are destroyed. Any good fungicide spray will keep botrytis in check.

Lilies require a fair amount of space. They will multiply from year to year and depending on the variety, may need dividing every four to six years. Initial spacing of 40 to 50 cm between bulbs is not too far. And they will soon multiply and fill in the intervening spaces.