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   A reader wrote to me this week that her irises didn't bloom well this year, and she wondered if she had done something wrong to cause that problem. Because she said ""this year"" it sounded like they had done better in other years, so I suggested to her they may just need dividing and re-setting. The bearded iris (sometimes called German iris) multiply quickly, so they'll need dividing every three or four years, and some varieties even sooner.   Any good garden-type soil suits iris, but it must be well-drained. To prepare the soil, spade or till it about a food deep, mixing in some humus, such as: rotted leaves or compost. A small amount of commercial fertilizer (a small handful per square foot) and a dusting of wood ashes will be beneficial, but not manure.    Make the new bed ready before digging the iris so they can be replanted right away. Cut off new rhizomes (the fat bulbous root) at the joint between the old and new rhizomes and replant only the new ones. The leaves should be cut back some, but not more than half. The top of the rhizome should be at ground level or just barely covered, but the  roots growing along the sides should be well-covered. Water thoroughly after planting and again during dry spells all Fall so they can make a good root system before Winter.    Since irises do increase rapidly, it's best to set them at least a foot apart, even more for the ones that multiply fastest. Dwarf kinds can be closer. Of course, all could be put closer for a quicker display for the next year or two, but that only means they'll need dividing sooner.    It's O.K. to put them back into the same bed, but the soil should be improved as described above. If using a tiller, you'd probably want to dig all the iris first, keeping them in a shady place and replanting soon as possible. But, if the work is to be done with a spade or fork, I'd advise doing only what could be managed at one work session so the plants won't need to be out of the ground long.    Some books recommend planting iris in mid-summer, but this year was so hot and dry it would have been a real chore to keep them watered. I know from my own experiences they can be planted in early September with good results. Also, most writers say they need full sun, but I have one clump that gets morning sun but mostly shade during the afternoon. Actually, I think it looks better than most of the others.    That reader told me her re-blooming iris didn't bloom the second time this summer, and I think the dry weather was responsible. Mine didn't rebloom either. Of course, if they're overcrowded, that could also be a cause, but I do know they need watering (or enough rain) for several weeks following the first bloom, if they're to rebloom. That's something the ads don't tell us.    There are other types of iris easier to grow than the bearded kinds. Siberian iris has a heavy root system but not rhizomes, so it's a good kind for holding banks, especially in damp places. The Siberians don't have borers in the roots nor spotty leaves like some of the bearded kinds, and they do especially well in damp spots where the bearded kinds couldn't survive. The Japanese irises do well in damp places; in fact, they must have plenty of moisture until the blooming period is over.    One of my favorite kinds is the little wild iris from our West Virginia woods and roadsides. It makes a good ground cover, under trees and shrubs, and blooms in springtime with violet-blueflowers. The scientific name is Iris cristata and is native to most of the eastern US. If you don't have access to it from the woods, some of the catalogs that sell wildflowers have it.    I can be reached at RR 2, Box 189, Branchland, WV 25506-9751. Questions and comments welcome. Sorry, folks, I have no computer or E-mail, but I do answer all letters.

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