Special Interest Groups

Special Interest Groups are informal sub-groups of Garden Club members who share a special interest in a particular aspect of gardening.  All members are welcome to join any of the groups; please contact the leader(s) indicated below. New groups can be formed if enough members show an interest in a particular topic; contact our President to discuss: president@ssigardenclub.ca.

Special Interest Groups are only available for Garden Club members, and any fees associated with the Special Interest Groups are on top of the Garden Club membership dues.

An Interest Group devoted to the in’s and out’s of local food production, with a special emphasis on Winter Gardening Techniques. If you grow (or want to grow) your own food, join us. We have monthly meetings, sharing our fruit and veggie growing successes and failures, hosted in members’ gardens, following the advice of our mentor, Linda Gilkeson www.lindagilkeson.ca. We organize seasonal plant and seed swaps, group buying opportunities, local food production garden tours. Contact Georgette Pauker for more info geopauker@gmail.com.

Learn more about growing these beautiful, dramatic flowers.

Meet other iris and peony enthusiasts, visit their gardens, exchange expertise and share plants.

The SSI Garden club works very closely with the BC Iris Society.  Their website is located at: https://www.bcirissociety.com.

Meetings will reconvene in Spring 2024!

To join this group, contact Ted Baker at tedebaker41@gmail.com.

Hover over the photo to see the name of the plant and click to enlarge.

Irises come in many types and colours, hence the name the “Rainbow Flower”. They are the only plant genera I know of that has plants which will grow in almost any type of ecosystem, from those growing in the desert to some that grow in water. So no matter what your garden is like, you can find an iris that will fit! Planting specifics vary depending on type, and these will be discussed with each type.

BEARDED IRISES are divided into classes by size, season of bloom and form. For our purposes, they will be discussed as Tall Bearded and the smaller bearded types or Medians.  Bearded irises are best transplanted about a month after they bloom. They tend to go dormant at this time and start to grow again when moved. Plant them in well-drained, rich soil which gets at least six hours of sun. Water in well and keep moist until fall rains come. Once established, minimal water is required.

To keep clumps from losing both vigour and bloom, thin the clumps by taking out some of the old rhizomes (use a dandelion tool or screwdriver to pop them out). Lime the clumps and fertilize with a balanced, slow-release fertilizer as they start to grow in the spring.

Tall Bearded (TB) irises are the most popular and grow in many Salt Spring gardens. Many of the ones we see are referred to as “Historics”, meaning they were introduced over 30 years ago. They grow 70 cm (27.5 in) tall and higher.

Some Bearded irises also rebloom later in the season.  Many hybridizers are working hard to extend the bloom season by concentrating the rebloom gene in their breeding programs. 

Smaller types (Standard Dwarf, Intermediate, Border and Miniature Tall Bearded) are up to 70 cm tall and are planted and cared for in the same manner as the TB irises.

SIBERIAN IRISES are a great garden plant. The foliage is grassy and looks good all year. They bloom in late May and early June in a wide range of colours. Hybridizers have recently added many new colours to the Siberian palate, including pinks, tans, reds and wonderful patterns. They are easy to grow and are almost disease-free. Once a clump is established, they are very drought-tolerant. When Burgoyne Bay Provincial Park was established years ago, the houses in the bay were moved out. One house had three established clumps of Siberian irises, which still continue to bloom beautifully without attention or irrigation.

They are best transplanted in early spring or just after they have finished blooming, or in the early fall. Plant in a well-drained, rich site about one and a half inches deep. Water in well and keep moist the first year. Fertilize in the spring with a balanced, slow-release fertilizer.  After bloom is finished, cut or pull off the stalk at the base. Cut the foliage down to about 4 inches in the fall.

SPURIA are the irises that florists like best. Like peonies, they can be cut and placed in cold storage until they are needed. They are tall and elegant in the garden. They bloom in mid-June in a good range of colours including blue, purple, yellow, white, tan, wines and bi-colours. They transplant best in early spring. Plant about 2 inches deep in well-drained, rich soil. They can be mulched to conserve moisture and to help with weed control.

If you do not have enough water, you can stop watering in the summer and they will go dormant and the leaves will die back. If you chose to do this, don’t water them while they are dormant or else the rhizomes will rot. When the fall rains come, new growth will appear.

JAPANESE IRISES are considered the Queen of the irises. It is true that they are particularly elegant. They come with three, six and nine or more falls, in a range of colours including white, pinks, blues, purples and many shades in between. They also boast many patterns, but where they shine is in the size of the flowers, which can be eight inches across. The blooms sit tall atop stiff stems.

Of all the irises, they respond to good care and will give ample rewards if heavily fertilized with nitrogen and kept well watered. A good time to transplant is just after they have finished blooming;  plant them 10 to 12 cm deep. This depth is because, unlike other irises, Japanese irises root up the stem. Eventually the roots will reach the top and vigour will be compromised, then the iris will have to be replanted.

There are nearly 300 SPECIES of irises which are native to the Northern Hemisphere. They are a wonderful addition to any garden. Species and Species Crosses have been included here.

There are 11 PACIFIC COAST IRIS SPECIES which range from northern California to mid-Washington. There were probably some in British Columbia before the last ice age. They do cross in nature and have been hybridized extensively to give a wonderful range of form, colour and patterns.

Peonies (Paeonia) are just so wonderful.  They are stunning and give pleasure for generations.

Peonies are divided in the fall. After selecting the plant you want in your garden, be sure to prepare your site well. The site should have at least 6 hours of sun and be well-drained.  Because your peony can grow in place for 80 years, make sure that trees and shrubs are not going to grow and shade it over time. Dig deep and wide and add compost and bone meal to the hole. Because you have loosened the soil it will leave a mound, which is good because as it settles the peony will end up at ground level. Plant your peony so the growing eye is from one to two inches deep, not deeper, and with the tuber lying horizontal just below the soil surface. Water in and keep moist but not wet until the winter rains come.

Give a light feed of a balanced, slow-release fertilizer in the spring. When cutting flowers for indoors, do it in the early morning and be sure to leave at least three leaves on the plant to make sure it blooms next year.

Peonies come in three types plus species and a good range of colours.

Herbaceous Peonies are cut back in the fall.  They come mainly in reds, pinks and whites but new colours are being introduced over time.  See Pastelegance, which is a lovely champagne colour.


  • Most common and well-known
  • Needs at least 6 to 8 hours of full sun each day—the more sun, the more flowers and the quicker to mature
  • Blooms in late spring—early summer (May-June) for approximately 7-10 days
  • Ants love the sap exuded by the peony buds, but they do not cause any harm to the flowers
  • Take care not to plant roots too deeply—1½ to 2 inches of soil on top of the eye, making sure the eyes are facing up;  planting too deeply means flowers will not develop
  • Does best planted in the ground rather than in pots
  • Typically reaches 2-3 ft tall and wide
  • Most of the doubles and older varieties have weak stems and will droop after heavy rain—will require stakes or supports to hold up the blooms
  • Dies back to the ground when winter comes

Tree Peonies (Paeonia suffruticosa) grow woody stems and are not cut back in the fall.  They grow tall and a mature plant can have over 50 blooms in one season. So lovely in a situation where you have afternoon shade, which helps to hold the colour.


  • Needs sun to bloom, but light shade during the heat of midday is preferable to prevent the fragile petals from wilting
  • Blooms before the herbaceous peonies (April-May)
  • Enormous flowers (up to 7 or even 10 inches across)
  • Single, semi-double and double flowers
  • Comes in the widest range of colors, including white, pink, red, lavender, yellow, peach and green
  • Most are grafted to an herbaceous peony, so the graft must be planted 6 to 8 inches below ground level
  • Grows slowly about 6 inches per year
  • Mature plant can be up to 4 to 7 feet tall and 4 to 5 feet wide
  • Woody branches, from which herbaceous stems grow
  • Does not die back to the ground
  • Does not require staking
  • Provides lovely structure to the garden, with its deep green foliage in summer turning bronze and purple in fall.

Itoh or Intersectional Peonies are a cross between herbaceous and tree peonies. The result is a plant that has the beautiful cut leaves of a tree peony and also many colours not found in herbaceous peonies, including yellows. They do not need staking, which is another advantage.  These can be expensive as they are relatively new introductions but are so worth having in your garden.


  • Needs at least 6 to 8 hours of full sun each day – the more sun, the more flowers and quicker to mature
  • Blooms after the herbaceous peonies (June) for 3 to 4 weeks.
  • The flowers and flower colors closely resemble tree peonies – showy with large colour range—up to eight inches across
  • Same flower forms as herbaceous, but no Japanese form
  • Attractive foliage through summer and into fall
  • Grows up to 2.5 ft tall by 3 ft wide
  • Good at the front of the border because they are more compact form than the tree and herbaceous peonies
  • Sturdy stems that do not require staking
  • Dies back to the ground when winter comes

There are about 35 recognized peony species. These are native to Asia, Europe and Western North America. Most of the peonies in commerce are hybrids of these species or hybrid crosses. One of the species that most of us are familiar with is Paeonia mlokosewitschii, or ‘Molly The Witch’ as most of us know it.

Peony Flower Types

The American Peony Society recognizes 6 forms:

  1. Single – Five or more guard petals arranged around the carpels and pollen-bearing stamens.
    Photo: Peony ‘Flame
  1. Double – Consists mostly of petals, almost no stamens.
    Photo: Peony Itoh ‘Sonoma Halo’
  1. Semi-Double – Five or more outer guard petals with a center of smaller inner petals.
    Photo: Peony ‘Buckeye Belle’
  1. Bomb  – The stamens of this flower are completely transformed into inner petals. These inner petals are narrower than the outer guard petals so that the flower looks like a sculpted ball of ice cream on a shallow bowl.
    Photo: Peony ‘Raspberry Sundae’
  1. Anemone – The stamens of this flower are transformed into petaloids – small, narrow petals the center of the flower – surrounded by the outer guard petals.
    Photo: Peony ‘Gay Paree’
  1. Japanese –  Five or more guard petals arranged around a large center filled with carpels and stamens. Stamens are transformed into stamenoids which are similar to stamens in form and color, but they have a lumpy texture and thicker tissue that prevents them from shedding pollen.
    Photo: Peony ‘Gertrude Allen’

The Permaculture Group meets monthly at different member’s homes. We tour that garden, ask questions, and brainstorm suggestions. Sometimes we share plants, cuttings, or seeds. Some people have more experience and some have very little. All are welcome. Contact Kerrie O’Donnell at permaculture@ssigardenclub.ca if you would like to join this group, or need more information.

Our mission statement is to foster knowledge, interest, sharing, creativity and information to members who have a particular enthusiasm for cacti and succulents. Meetings are usually held every second month at a member’s home. Members can volunteer at any time to:

  • Host a meeting
  • Suggest discussion topics of interest
  • Lead discussion on a specific topic
  • Bring treats
  • Show and tell or bring something to share.

Meetings include a tour of the host member’s garden. Field trips to other gardens or to nurseries are sometimes organized.  Contact Andria Scanlan at andria.scanlan@gmail.com if you are interested in joining this group.

Discover more from SSI Garden Club

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.

Scroll to Top