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Now at their peak, irises add dainty color to your garden

All over North Georgia, irises, in blues, yellows, pinks and whites are in full bloom.

The flowers, which are most common in purple, have been passed down from our grandmothers, according to Elaine Kelley. They are a sentimental favorite for the garden.

"The was the most common because our grandmothers had them and that was most readily available," said Kelley, a master gardener and owner of The Potting Shed in Flowery Branch.

That same sentimental memory is why Kelley developed her love for the blooms.

"When I was about 5 years old my dad brought me home some irises in the back of his dry cleaning truck," she said. "There was an elderly lady, in her 80s or 90s, and they were going to bulldoze down her house, and she told him to get all the flowers that he wanted ... he brought me home the flowers and my favorite of what he brought home was the irises."

Kelley, dubbed by some as the "Iris Lady of Georgia," added that the flowers are nearly deer and pest proof.

"Deer won’t touch them," she said. "And about the only two things that we deal with here is leaf spots, which doesn’t usually cause that much of a problem and goes away in the warm summertime, and spider mites that like to get on them in the early spring but tend to disappear on their own most of the time, too."

The most popular irises at The Potting Shed, which has 250 varieties on site, are Yaquina blue, the yellow and white growing smile, magical encounter, which is pink, fatal attraction (purplish blue) and queen circle (white with purple edges).

"We are right at peak," Kelley said. "I have three weeks of iris festival and that’s when the most are blooming, and that’s at the very end of April and the first of May. That’s when you have the most blooms but something is blooming for about five weeks from the very earliest to the very latest variety."

Right now we are at iris peak, but there is plenty of time to get those bulbs, called rhizomes, in the ground for next year.

"Any time from mid-July to October," Kelley said. "Now is a good time to look and to select their varieties, but if they are going to get them from their friends or neighbors it should be at least mid-July."

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