Iris Propagation with Mather Students

          June 7, was an engaging day since we had to prepare for the Mather High School students field trip to Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site. There were about hundred students of ninth graders, teachers, and park workers who were ready for a busy and exciting day. The students had four stations to go too, throughout the day to see how different jobs have to be done in order for National Parks to function and for the public to enjoy. The stations included Wood Shingles, Iris Splitting, Pruning Orchid, and Stone Paving. My station was the Iris Splitting and the people in my group included Anna De Cordova, Michelle Pizzillo, Amelia, and Anne Symmes who is the horticulturalist and Garden Educator of the Beatrix Farrand Garden at Belliefield. We worked with Siberian and Bearded iris at Belliefield. What is an iris? Iris is a plant with sword-shaped leaves and showy flowers. Iris means rainbow and the name originally comes from tall beautiful Greek Goddess who rode rainbows. There are about over 200 species and are native to North temperate regions. Iris prefer fertile soil that is neutral to slightly acidic. They tend to bloom around early spring to early summer and are a hardy plant.

          At our station, Anne showed the Mather students how to identify iris plants and told them the importance of propagation. To propagate a plant means to increase them in numbers by division which result in plants that are same size and colors as the parent plant. Iris grow in clumps and are ready for division every three to four years. If the iris perennial are not separated, crowded plants tend to create fewer flowers. Anne explained that iris propagation is important so we are able to sell at plant sales to get funding for the garden. That way it is one of a kind plant and has historic values because Beatrix chose them to plant them in her garden. The students were very respectful and were eager learners who knew history of Beatrix. Beatrix Farrand was a trailblazer the students told us! I was amazed to learn a new word that I never heard before. The students learned to identify correct tools for separating the plants and learned why propagating iris is important. I plan on applying this skill by taking the knowledge of how to separate iris that are rare and valuable to the HOFR park. I will use this skill in future gardens.

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