There may be a few holdouts, but for the most part the bearded iris season is over. But don't' get in too much of a hurry to dig and divide just yet. Iris needs four to six weeks following flowering for new rhizomes to fully develop before digging and dividing. In the event you are looking to buy iris for your garden, the Southern Illinois Iris Society, the oldest iris society in Illinois, will have its rhizome sale on July 25th from 8am-12pm at the Marion County Extension Office in Salem. The Mid Illinois Iris Society has a similar public sale on August 1st at the Casey Township Community Center in Fairview Heights. It's worth becoming a member to both of these just to attend the member's only iris rhizome auction that follows the potluck lunch and business meeting after the public sale. For additional details. Click on the American Iris Society, Region 9 (Illinois) website at: http://www.aisregion9.com/. In addition, the Greater St Louis Iris Society will be hosting an iris rhizome sale at Missouri Botanical Gardens on August 15 and 16 from 9am-5pm.
Yet, while I'm always sad when the last iris blooms wither away, my spirits are greatly lifted when other spectacular garden plants take center stage. Phlomis, commonly known as Jerusalem sage, is one of my many perennial garden favorites and a couple of its species are currently in bloom. You know that catchy phrase "leaves of three, let it be!" which is used to protect unwary gardeners against poison ivy? Well, I think there should be something similar for many members of the mint family, "square stem, millions them." And although Phlomis is a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae), it is not invasive. Phlomis does increase in size but at a reduced manageable rate. I particularly like Phlomis viscosa, which starts blooming in mid-May. The leaves are large and fuzzy and in of themselves are quite attractive, but the bright yellow flowers provide the real eye-catching interest. The plant's overall height is between two and three feet.
Another yellow species is P. russeliana. It is slightly lighter in color than P. viscosa and also starts blooming later in June; usually lasting well into the heat of late summer. The first Phlomis I planted in my garden was P. tuberosa about 10 years ago and it is probably one of the most asked about plants in my garden. Unlike the previous two that were mentioned, this Phlomis is light magenta and stands three to four feet tall. I have never needed to thin this plant so it is very well behaved for a mint family member.
A standard selection (2-3') of yarrow (Achillea) like 'Paprika' tends to lodge, giving the garden a windswept look. Sometimes this is not desirable effect and that is where the more compact selections (1.5-2') are useful. I have been really impressed with their performance. They remain upright throughout spring storms and the ferny foliage is full enough to plant at the front of a border. I started out with a bright pink selection named "Saucy Seduction' and it has done a nice job of naturalizing but not at an annoyingly rapid rate. Just recently, I picked up 'Gold Dust,' which by its name tells you it is bright yellow in color.
Elecampane (Inula spp.) needs some room (3-5'), but what a show-off with flowers sporting a huge center disk surrounded by dozens of thready rays! It does spread at a very controllable rate, but this is a plant that I don't really mind having more of. Unfortunately, Inula is sparse in the nursery trade and is tough to find. Guess I better start potting some up and see who wants to be my friend.