Siberian iris - Healthy Plants

Siberian iris – Healthy Plants

Siberian iris

Classically handsome Siberian iris is a must-have for every garden. Sporting stems of elegant, beardless flowers in late spring to early summer, Siberian iris cultivars come in shades of blue-violet, purple, wine, lavender, pink, white, and yellow.

Unlike the stiff foliage of some iris species, Siberian iris has narrow leaves that give the plant a graceful, grasslike effect. This combination of beautiful flowers and attractive foliage makes Siberian iris a standout in the perennial garden all summer long.

Common name: Siberian iris

Botanical name: Iris sibirica

Plant type: Herbaceous perennial

Zones: 4 to 9

Height: 20 to 40 inches

Family: Iridaceae, iris family

Growing Conditions

  • Sun: Full sun.
  • Soil: Prefers moist garden loam. Tolerates a range of soil pH.
  • Moisture: Soil should be evenly moist and well-drained. Water Siberian iris adequately during dry spells.


  • Mulch: None, or a 1-inch layer of fine compost.
  • Pruning: Cut back foliage in late fall or early spring.
  • Fertiliser: Apply a balanced fertiliser once or twice during the growing season.


  • Siberian iris tends to die out in the centre of crowded clumps. Divide the clumps every 3 to 5 years and reset the divisions to maintain healthy plants.
  • Seeds collected from cultivars will not grow into plants that look like their parents. If you want to collect seeds anyway, sow them in an outdoor seedbed in the fall.

Pests and diseases

  • Siberian iris is much less susceptible to iris borers than bearded iris, but these insects can occasionally be a problem. Check for borer damage when dividing clumps; discard infested rhizomes.

Garden notes

  • Siberian iris blooms at the same time as some peonies, and the two perennials make a stunning pair. Pink peonies and deep purple Siberian iris are a particularly dramatic duo.
  • Siberian iris foliage looks similar to ornamental grass and can be used in similar ways in the garden.
  • Most Siberian iris cultivars are not heavy seed producers. The dark brown seedpods are attractive and make a nice addition to dried bouquets.

Additional cultivars

  • There are dozens of Siberian iris cultivars. Here are just a few favourites:
  • ‘Butter and Sugar’-one of the first yellow and white bicolors.
  • ‘Caesar’s Brother’-tall, with velvety deep purple flowers.
  • ‘Ego’-ruffled light lavender-blue flowers.
  • ‘Halcyon Seas’-medium bluish purple flowers.
  • ‘Heliotrope Bouquet’-large mauve flowers.
  • ‘Lady Vanessa’-wine-red flowers.
  • ‘Pink Haze’-lavender-pink flowers.
  • ‘Ruffled Velvet’-ruffled reddish purple flowers.
  • ‘White Swirls’-large ruffled white flowers.

All in the family

  • There are several hundred species of iris with a wide range of sizes and flowering habits. They are native to Asia, Europe, and North America.
  • Siberian iris is part of the beardless iris group, which also includes Japanese, Louisiana, and spuria iris.
  • The iris has long been used in decorative arts, including the well-known fleur-de-lis design that originally served as the emblem for French royalty.
What herbs to include in a healthy herb garden?

What herbs to include in a healthy herb garden?

People grow herbs primarily for culinary purposes, but also for cosmetic, household, and medicinal uses. If you’d like to grow edible herbs for your health, think about which herbs you would use in cooking and baking. Maybe you’d like to brew mint tea, or you enjoy Mexican food with plenty of cilantro. How about parsley potatoes? Dilled cucumbers? Tomatoes sprinkled with fresh basil?      

As with any new garden, start small, then expand by adding new herbs each year. Some herbs are annuals and must be replaced each year, and others are perennial. A few perennials may become a nuisance if they’re not contained. (Mints are notorious for this.) Most herb gardens contain both types. Check to see which perennial herbs are appropriate for your hardiness zone. If your favourite herb isn’t hardy in your region, grow it as an annual and replace it each year. You could also dig it up at the end of the season, plant it in a container, keep it in a sunny window all winter, and plant it outdoors again the following spring.  Some popular annual herbs for gardens are basil, cilantro/coriander, dill, and parsley (technically a biennial). Favourite perennials include chives, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, and French tarragon.

herbs pot

herbs pot

Basil bounty

I love basil for its fragrance and versatility. I cook with it and use it fresh as a garnish and in salads and drinks. Basil also makes a great tea for a tummy ache. Too bad it’s not a perennial.

Time for thyme

My favourite herb is thyme. It’s very useful in the kitchen, comes in several flavours, and makes a nice ground cover in a rock garden. I love to walk through the garden, brush through the thyme, and fill the air with its aroma.

Rosemary rave

I grow a large rosemary plant in a container on my patio. I use this herb often in cooking, especially on salmon. I also use rosemary water on my long hair to make it more shiny. I put a few sprigs in a cup of hot water and let it steep. When it cools, I put the water in a spray bottle and use it in the shower when I wash my hair.

Chive champion

I enjoy chives because they are easy to grow, the plants last for years, and I can use them in a variety of recipes.

Lovely lavender

I plant lavender everywhere because it’s very drought tolerant and it smells delicious when you brush against it.

Kitty’s choice

My favourite herb to grow is catnip. I like the way it smells, and I use it in tea. It’s a little taste of the garden for my three indoor cats‹they can’t resist it.

Mighty mint

I plant chocolate mint in its own garden bed so it can spread at will. I use it to brew coffee: I add 1 to 2 teaspoon of dried mint to my two scoops of coffee for a wonderfully flavoured and scented cup of coffee every morning. The best thing about it is that it doesn’t have any added calories!

Favourtire health herbs - Dill

Favourtire health herbs – Dill

What you need to know about Dill

Dill is almost too good to be true: It’s pretty, it smells good, it tastes good, it’s pleasant to the touch, and it’s useful in the kitchen and the garden. The lacy blue-green foliage is elegant, the bright yellow flower clusters hold their own in a vase, and it’s lightly aromatic. The annual herb is cook’s choice not just in pickles, but also in breads, salads, flavored vinegars, and vegetable and fish dishes. Dill attracts beneficial insects to the garden, and is larval food for at least one butterfly. The International Herb Association has slated dill to be the herb of the year in 2010.

Common name: Dill

Botanical name: Anethum graveolens

Plant type: Annual

Zones: Annual in all zones

Height: 2 to 4 feet

Family: Apiaceae

Growing conditions

· Sun: Full sun

· Soil: Average, well-drained

· Moisture: Average to moist


· Mulch: Mulch as you would a vegetable garden: a few inches thick, using straw, grass clippings, leaves, or other organic materials.

· Pruning: None needed.

· Fertiliser: If desired, apply a bit of 5-10-5 fertiliser in the spring.


· By seed

Pests and diseases

· Leaf spot and other fungal diseases

· Food source for the caterpillar of the black swallowtail butterfly

What you need to know about Dill

What you need to know about Dill

Garden notes

· In addition to providing food for the black swallowtail caterpillar (also called the parsleyworm), dill attracts beneficial insects like ladybugs, bees, spiders, and wasps.

· To grow dill in a container, choose a pot that’s at least 10 inches deep with holes for drainage. Don’t let the container dry out—keep the soil moist.

· Cut the bright yellow umbrella-shaped flower clusters for an indoor display.

· Both dill leaves (called dill weed) and the seed (technically, fruit) of dill plants are used as seasonings. Fresh leaves are more potent than dried leaves. Cut leaves just before the flowers open and use or freeze as soon as possible.


· ‘Long Island Mammoth’ is the standard. It’s the cultivar you’re most likely to find in a seed catalog; commercial growers also use it.

· ‘Dukat’ (also called ‘Tetra’) has lush foliage.

· ‘Bouquet’ has blue-green leaves and blooms early.

All in the family

· Carrots, parsley, fennel, cumin, and caraway are also members of the Apiaceae family (also known as the Umbelliferae family), as is the wildflower Queen Anne’s lace.

· Dill is native to Asia and the Mediterranean

Eating chillies from the garden – health benefits!

Eating chillies from the garden – health benefits!

Eating chillies from the garden!

Chili plants are slow to get going, so start pepper plants indoors a few weeks earlier than tomatoes and have loads of health benefits. Here are chili pepper seed-starting tips from the National Garden Bureau:

  • Sow seeds about 8 to 12 weeks before the last frost date.
  • Sow several seeds / inch deep in 2-to 3-inch containers such as peat pots filled with lightly moistened seed-starting mix.
  • Water well and place the pots in a well-lighted, warm area (80ºF to 85ºF) such as under fluorescent lights.
  • To prevent the seedlings from damping off, keep the soil damp but not wet, and provide good air circulation around the plants.
  • Feed the seedlings with half-strength water-soluble nitrogen fertiliser every two weeks. When seedlings are about two inches tall, thin to one plant per pot by cutting out the smaller ones.
  • Once the plants are about 5 inches tall and the nighttime temperatures are above 60ºF, harden the plants off by placing them outdoors for longer periods of time each day.
  • After two weeks, plant them in the garden. Peppers need full sun, rich soil (amended with compost, well-rotted manure, or leaf mould) and good drainage. Allow 2 feet between plants.
  • If the peppers are starting to produce flower buds, pinch them off and continue to do this for one to two weeks weeks; this forces the plants to put their energy into growing leaves and roots. Mulch with 2 to 3 inches of organic mulch to slow weed growth and maintain soil moisture.
  • Stake varieties that grow taller than 2 feet.
  • Keep the plants lightly moist, but not soggy.
  • Pull any weeds if they appear. Feed the plants with an all-purpose water-soluble fertiliser about six weeks after transplanting and again if the plants start to look pale or the leaves are small.
  • Most chili peppers start out green, then turn yellow, orange, red, or brown when fully ripe. Harvest when peppers feel firm and get a glossy sheen.
Eating chillies from the garden

Eating chillies from the garden

Heat Scale

How do you know whether the pepper you want to grow is too hot to handle?

The amount of “heat” in hot peppers is measured using Scoville units, which refers to the parts per million of capsaicin (a chemical unique to peppers that acts as an irritant) in a pepper. The higher the Scoville units, the more fiery the pepper and the more you’ll sweat – talk about health benefits.

Growing conditions such as soil quality, moisture, temperature, and exposure to sunlight affect the hotness of a pepper. Even fruits on the same plant may have different degrees of heat. A habañero will always be hotter than a jalapeño. But a habañero grown in Texas will usually be hotter than one grown in Vermont. That¹s why some of the hottest peppers come from the Southwest.

Pepper Type Scoville Units

  • Sweet Bell Pepper 0 – 100
  • Pasilla Bajio 100 – 250
  • Anaheim 800 – 1,400
  • Ancho/Poblano 1,250 – 2,500
  • Jalapeño 4,000 – 6,000
  • Serrano 10,000 – 25,000
  • Cayenne 25,000 – 55,000
  • Tabasco 30,000 – 60,000
  • Chile Pequin 40,000 – 70,000
  • Thai Dragon 75,000 – 150,000
  • Habañero 100,000 – 325,000
  • Red Savina Habañero 225,000 – 570,000
  • Pure Capsaicin 16,000,000

In 1912, a pharmacologist named Wilbur Scoville put together a panel of brave souls who tasted solutions of hot peppers and slightly sweetened water. They diluted until they detected no heat, and rated pepper varieties by the dilution factor. For example, a gallon of habanero extract poured into a vat would take 300,000 gallons of water to dilute it.

Scoville heat units for selected peppers:

0 to 5,000

  • Bell, pimiento: 0
  • Anaheim: 1,000 to 1,400
  • Jalapeno: 2,500 to 5,000

5,000 to 20,000

  • Wax: 5,000 to 10,000
  • Serrano: 7,000 to 25,000
  • Chipotle (smoked jalapeno): 10,000

20,000 to 70,000

  • Arbol: 25,000
  • Tabasco: 30,000 to 50,000
  • Cayenne: 35,000
  • Thai: 50,000 to 100,000

Over 70,000

  • Jamaican Hot: 100,000 to 200,000
  • Scotch Bonnet: 100,000 to 250,000
  • Habanero: 100,000 to 300,000