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Two flower shows offer a feast for the eyes and gardens

What an opportunity we have this weekend to attend two flower shows featuring Las Vegas’ most popular flowers: roses and irises.

The Las Vegas Valley Rose Society show will be from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday at the West Charleston Library, 6301 W. Charleston Blvd. The theme is “Language of Roses.” The library is a logical choice for a show that emphasizes learning, notes Jackie Jackson of the society.

Meanwhile, the Las Vegas Iris Society will have its two-day show from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Nevada Garden Center at Lorenzi Park, 3333 W. Washington Ave. “Iris Computer” is the theme of this year’s show.

I asked why. “Us iris buffs do just about everything related to irises on computers now. We select new varieties and purchase our irises from computers, and we do all our club business on computers, so we incorporated it into our theme,” says Roxy Carnevale of the society.

The irises will be beautiful this year because of the unusual spring we’re having. Bring a camera and be sure to fill out your wish list. That way you’ll know which irises to look for at the group’s annual sale at Plant World in June. Expect to find hundreds of rhizomes offered for sale.

Admission is free to both shows. You can join in the fun by entering your roses and/or irises to exhibit. You may just win a ribbon or even the sweepstakes. If you decide to enter your roses or irises or want to know more about these shows, call 646-6048 for roses and 228-0827 for irises.

You’ll be flabbergasted at what these rose and iris hobbyists do in the artistic design section. I go to the shows just before opening to watch these hobbyists work feverishly putting on the last-minute touches prior to judging. One woman totally dismantled her arrangement and put it back together as judges entered the hall.

Both societies are committed to expanding public knowledge of these wonderful flowers, including how to grow, exhibit and propagate them.

Unlike roses, most irises bloom only once a year, but iris enthusiasts want them to rebloom as often as roses. They are developing varieties that will rebloom twice a summer. Find out the names of the rebloomers so you can purchase them at the sale.

Here is more information about the flowers.

Iris: The Iris gets its name from the Greek goddess of the rainbow. You’ll find irises of every color under the rainbow, except true red. Hybridizers are hoping they will develop that true red iris and you might just meet them at the show.

Rebloomers complete two distinct cycles of growth each year, with the second cycle of blooms in the summer or early fall. They do not require a chilling period as once thought, although cool nights seem to promote more reblooms.

Rebloomers take a little more care than once-bloomers but are definitely worth it. They need more fertilizer and water to get that extra boost to flower again, so you don’t want them to dry out. Fertilize them in early spring and again after spring bloom by scattering it under the plants.

Grow your rebloomers in clusters or distinguish them from single bloomers because they may rot. And because they increase faster, separate and replant them every two years. Make soil preparation a top priority.

Irises are among the easiest perennials to grow, and interplanting them helps to curb outbreaks of iris pests. Many members of the daisy and mint families provide food and shelter for beneficial insects. If slugs are a problem, lightly sprinkle Epsom salts around the plants or scoop them up and dissolve in a solution of table salts. This way we can have an environmentally friendly garden.

Miniature roses: These flowers have taken American gardeners by storm during the past 20 years, becoming the biggest seller in the rose market. Statistics suggest they are outselling all other roses by 4-to-1!

They have captivated everyone with their petite blooms and are so easy to grow. After forming buds, they bloom continuously, with little or no care, until frost. This is not so with the big roses, which need six weeks between blooming cycles.

Of all the different types of roses, miniatures are the most versatile roses to grow. They are available in a wide spectrum of colors, sizes, bloom styles and growth habits. There are thousands of varieties available, and each takes up little space. With such a vast array to choose from, you could quickly fill your garden.

Miniature roses will “win friends and influence people.” Take a small bouquet of miniatures to anyone and watch the response. They are so delicate many people will wonder if they are real. People are not convinced until they touch and smell the roses. You can use them to decorate tables and what’s even more fun is decorating gifts.

Miniature roses range in height from ankle high to chest high or higher You’ll find flowers from a half-inch to 2 inches in diameter, with colors similar to full-sized roses. Unfortunately, miniature roses have little or no fragrance, but rose breeders are working on that problem.

Here are some tips for growing miniature roses in pots:

* Avoid planting them too close to trees because they are poor root competitors.

* Give them at least six hours of sun a day.

* Make soil preparation a high priority.

* Repot them every three years.

* Start them in one-gallon pots to get them off to a fast start.

* Grow them in at least seven-gallon pots so they reach their full potential.

* Keep pots well-watered, which means twice daily during the heat.

* Let pots drain freely after watering. Never leave them standing in water.

* Water minis the day before feeding and follow with a good irrigation.

* Fertilize at least monthly using fish emulsion.

* Wash minis down weekly to keep bugs in check.

* Prune them hard annually.

* Deadhead spent roses to encourage continual blooming.

* Raise pots up to waist high for easier managing.

Linn Mills writes a gardening column each Thursday. You can reach him at linn.mills@lvspringspreserve.org or at the Gardens at the Springs Preserve at 822-8325.

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