How to Divide and Care for Bearded Iris

Bearded Iris are tall, elegant additions to the flower border, but they are also relatively high maintenance. You can help cut down on the incidence of soft rot and borer damage through regular division of the iris rhizomes, every 2-3 years. This will also keep bearded iris performing and blooming at its best. If left undivided, the flowering will decrease and the rhizome will be subject to more pests and damage.

You can divide bearded iris anytime after flowering and through the month of August. Using a pitch fork, carefully dig around the bearded iris plant, starting about a foot away from the outer most edge. Try not to pierce the rhizome with the fork. Work the fork around the bearded iris plant and gently lift the rhizomes out of the soil. Since bearded iris are grown at soil level, this is one of the easiest plants to lift.

Once you have the bearded iris rhizomes lifted, shake off any loose soil. Rinse off any remaining soil with a garden hose. If you don’t have space to do this in the garden, it is sometimes easier and neater to do it on a tarp. Rising off the soil will allow you to better see the rhizomes and roots, to inspect for damage.

Once the rhizomes are cleaned, you can separate the individual rhizomes from one another. Don’t break them apart, just loosen the already separate sections.

Once the rhizomes are clean, cut the foliage to about 6 inches. Cutting the fan of leaves connected to a lifted iris rhizome makes the plant easier to work with when dividing and replanting and helps prevent water loss while the plant is becoming re-established. The fan does not need to be cut symmetrically. Some leaves may be damaged and will need to be cut shorter than 6 inches. The leaves will start to grow back, with the middle leaf growing tallest.

Once the bearded iris rhizomes are clean, look for small to medium holes, like the one on the rhizome above left. These are telltale signs of borer damage. If your bearded iris leaves have dark streaks in them, you probably have iris borers, so look closely.

Also look for soft spots like the front section of the above right rhizome. This is another common iris problem called soft rot.

Using a sharp knife or pruners, remove any traces of either iris borer damage or soft rot and dispose of these segments of rhizome. Soft rot spreads easily, so disinfect your cutting tool with denatured alcohol between cuts, to prevent further contamination.

Now you are ready to divide the rhizomes. You will see natural places to make a split, such as where the rhizome has forked. Study the rhizome and make sure each section you have chosen will wind up being at least 3 inches long and will have healthy roots growing from it. Then go ahead and make a clean cut through the rhizome, using the same sharp, disinfected knife or pruner.

The final step is re-planting your bearded iris. Choose a full sun location and start by digging a shallow hole that will be wide enough to spread out the rhizome’s roots. Make the hole about 2-3 inches deep, then create a mound in the center of the hole to just about soil level, as shown above.

Soak the soil in the planting hole. Then take a rhizome division and place it in the center of the mound. Spread the roots around and down the mound. Cover the division with soil, being careful not to bury the rhizome with more than an inch or 2 of soil. Remember, it will probably settle a bit lower and bearded iris will rot and certainly won’t bloom, if buried too deeply.

Water well and do so weekly until you start to notice new growth. Then enjoy for another couple of years.

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Coming Tuesday: The correct way to measure which teams are hot heading into the NCAA tournament.

The Last Four In

Trying to predict how a group of people will vote is not a scientific process. This is why I no longer make an official bracket prediction myself. But I think a few things factored into the committees final decision.

1) Every year the committee likes to single out a team and punish that team for a poor non-conference strength of schedule, and Colorado had a non-conference strength of schedule ranked 300+ this year. That is exactly what happened in 2007 when Syracuse was left out (for not scheduling enough quality road games), and I am convinced that is what happened with Colorado this year. For a long time we thought Cincinnati would be singled out this year, but they won enough games late to avoid the bubble discussion, and the punishment fell to Colorado.

Is it right to leave a team out for a poor NCSOS? On the one hand, if the short-term goal is to pick the 37 best at large teams, then clearly that is the wrong criteria. But part of the NCAA committee’s goal is a long-term goal. They want to encourage teams to schedule quality opponents so that the process of evaluating and comparing teams is easier. Perhaps leaving Colorado out makes the field “worse” today, but in the long-run, we get a better product when teams schedule quality opponents.

We also saw a record number of teams in the field with 14 losses this year, proving that the committee continues to put more emphasis on quality of opponents rather than quantity of wins.

2) RPI top 50 wins are not everything. UAB won just one game against the RPI top 50, but the committee put a lot of weight on wins against teams ranked 51-100.

Wins against the RPI 1-100:
UAB = 10
VCU = 8
Colorado = 8
Virginia Tech = 8
Boston College = 7
Alabama = 5
St. Mary’s = 3
Harvard = 3

This does not mean I think the committee made the right decision. But if you go back historically, it is not unprecedented. In 2005, UAB had zero wins against the RPI top 50, lost in the second round of the CUSA tournament, and still qualified for the NCAA tournament field. This has happened before.

3) Richmond was not a lock. Various bracket projections are going to count Richmond as a correct pick, but if Richmond loses to Dayton on Sunday, I think the committee swaps Richmond out and puts Dayton on the 12 seed line. I don’t know this for sure, but I think the committee tries to minimize changes to the bracket on the last day, and I think this was their easy choice. The committee chair said on CBS that the ACC tournament final was irrelevant to the decision to give Duke a No. 1 seed, which confirms for me that they would have made the easiest possible last minute decision.

4) The biggest snub of all on Sunday probably had nothing to do with the NCAA. Maryland was not invited to the NIT despite having the 36th best margin-of-victory numbers in the nation.

Look Back

I know the tendency is to see the bracket and look ahead. But I think it is important to salute all the teams that won championships or earned NCAA bids with their fine play in the last week. For the UConn Huskies to win five games in five days is nothing short of miraculous. The log5 odds said they had just a 2% chance of winning the Big East tournament title when the tournament opened. In fact, their current odds of making it to the Final Four are a much healthier 7.2%. In other words, what Connecticut did was more rare than making the Final Four, and much more special. And as Kemba Walker’s mom, who had been shown on camera all week, hugged Kemba after the title game, you certainly did not have to tell her to celebrate the moment.

Similarly for a team like Penn St. that upset Wisconsin and Michigan St., perhaps the first week of the NCAA tournament will bring more joy. But for the four Penn St. senior starters who came so close to the NCAA tournament two years ago, just making the NCAA field is a tremendous accomplishment.

For Washington’s Isaiah Thomas and his buzzer-beater to beat Arizona, and for Princeton’s Douglas Davis and his buzzer-beater to beat Harvard, these are the moments to be overcome with joy. Only four teams will make it to the Final Four in three weeks. Only one team will win a NCAA title. But along the way, there are numerous champions.

5 Games in 5 Days

How was Connecticut able to win five games in five days? They were relentless at taking the ball to the basket. Take a look at Connecticut’s free throw rate this year. (Free throw rate measures the percentage of free throw attempts per field goal attempt.)

November and December: 42.0
January to end of regular season: 27.7
Big East Tournament: 47.1

This was not simply Connecticut having big leads and their opponents fouling late in the game. Connecticut was extremely aggressive at driving the ball inside in the Big East tournament. Will they keep it going and reach the Final Four? My gut tells me they will not. And it is not just because they are 17th in the Pomeroy Rankings. Butler was similarly situated and made a deep run last year.

But I think it will be very hard for Connecticut not to have an emotional letdown after a tournament like this. I think the fatigue will be more mental than physical. UConn is going to go back home and hear how fantastic they played, and I think it will be very hard to focus on preparing for a first and second round opponent. And that lack of mental focus could be costly. But if Kemba Walker keeps getting into the lane at will, Jeremy Lamb keeps making killer floaters, and Alex Oriakhi hustles for rebounds like he did in New York, anything can happen.

What was in the water in the ACC tournament?

If you have never looked at Ken Pomeroy’s win probability charts, look at what happened in the top half of the ACC tournament bracket:

Miami vs Virginia

North Carolina vs Miami

These were two tremendous comebacks. (The win probability chart for North Carolina vs Clemson was equally crazy, but that chart is not up yet.) Note: You may need to use Mozilla-Firefox to view these charts.

Similarly, we all thought Alabama’s comeback win against Georgia might put them ahead of the Bulldogs, but that was not the case. But the win probability chart still looks crazy on paper: Alabama vs Georgia

The same thing could be said for the Michigan comeback against Illinois: Michigan vs Illinois. It seemed significant at the time, but ultimately, both teams ended up in an 8-9 game in the NCAA tournament. I think the key to the Michigan comeback was that Michigan forward Jordan Morgan got in foul trouble and had to leave the game. Morgan is not a threat to shoot the three, so with Morgan in the game, Illinois forward Mike Tisdale was sagging into the paint and double-teaming whatever Michigan players tried to take the ball inside. But with Morgan out, Michigan put five shooters on the floor, and Tisdale had to step out to defend the three point line. That allowed Michigan to use penetration and cuts to more effectively get the ball to the basket.


Poor Charles Barkley. Kenny Smith and Barkley are phenomenal when providing post-game commentary at midnight. But I don’t think Charles was quite ready to be in studio at noon on a Sunday.

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Wolfpack cruises past BC

RALEIGH — N.C. State’s celebratory postgame locker room gathering was just about to break up Saturday afternoon when senior linebacker Nate Irving called the team to a halt.

After three straight losses to his former team, coach Tom O’Brien finally had directed N.C. State to a victory over Boston College, the Wolfpack winning 44-17 at Carter-Finley Stadium.

It was a radical turnaround for O’Brien and N.C. State, which suffered an embarrassing 52-20 defeat at Boston College a year ago. Irving, a senior tri-captain, wanted to reward O’Brien.

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North Carolina State coach Sidney Lowe says he is excited about the possibilities that could await his fifth season with the Wolfpack.

The Wolfpack bring back an All-Atlantic Coast Conference performer in Tracy Smith, several experienced returnees in Javi Gonzalez and Scott Wood and a recruiting class that ranks among the nation’s top groups.

With that lineup, the pressure will be on Lowe to finally get the Wolfpack to the NCAA tournament for the first time since his arrival four years ago. But Lowe also says he is excited that Wolfpack fans are holding high expectations for the upcoming season.

Lowe also says he met with incoming athletic director Debbie Yow on Monday for their first significant discussion since she was hired last week.Read

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Heels cruising through conference

The Tar Heels overcome personnel losses, a shallow bench and poor shooting to get back to the top of the ACC after a 0-2 start in the league. Now, UNC may get Tyler Zeller back Wednesday

CORAL GABLES, FLA. — Was it really only a month ago that North Carolina was wondering how to dig its way out of an 0-2 ACC hole?

After a 69-65 victory at Miami on Sunday night, the third-ranked Tar Heels now are shoveling dirt over the rest of the league.

With five games left in the regular season, UNC (23-2, 9-2 ACC) now holds a two-game stranglehold over second-place Duke (7-4 ACC), which lost at Boston College on Sunday — and at least a 2 1/2-game lead over everyone else.

In addition, coach Roy Williams said during his Monday night radio show he “would not be surprised if Tyler [Zeller] did play Wednesday night against North Carolina State,” according to The return of the freshman 7-footer, who was expected to redshirt after a wrist injury, would add depth to a bench that could use it.

How much he would be able to contribute remains in question. But after a stunning home loss to Boston College and a stumble at Wake Forest in January, the Tar Heels find themselves back to where everyone anticipated they would be — on the inside track to the top seed in the ACC Tournament and an NCAA Tournament berth in nearby Greensboro as a No. 1 seed.

“We just refocused ourselves, took a different approach to every game,” shooting guard Wayne Ellington said. “When we started out 0-2, we knew that it was a marathon, and if we took care of ourselves, we’d be fine.

Ellington insisted there haven’t been huge changes within the team, but subtle ones have made an impact:

* Point guard Ty Lawson, after being totally outplayed by BC’s Tyrese Rice and Wake’s Jeff Teague in the two losses, has played more aggressively. With his winning 3-pointer at Florida State, his 21-point second half at Duke and a key 21-point performance at Miami, he has played himself into league player-of-the-year consideration. When he’s driving to the basket and connecting from the outside, Lawson and UNC are hard to beat.

* With the notable exception of its win over Virginia, UNC has shot better. That point holds especially true for Ellington, who made only four of his 14 3-pointers in the two losses. In his past eight games, he buried 27 shots from behind the arc.

* The 0-2 start in league play became a wake-up call that opponents were going to bring their best every game. As Williams would say, the Tar Heels could not afford to “tiptoe through the tulips” and learned the hard way to take every opponent seriously.

“I think we let up a little bit [in the two losses],” Lawson said. “Everybody was talking about how we were the best team and stuff like that … We were thinking we were playing real well and let teams sneak up on us.”

The players insist they won’t let that happen again, especially after hearing about the weekend upsets of Duke and Clemson. To that end, the Tar Heels still need to work on two particular areas:

* PERIMETER DEFENSE: Miami senior Jack McClinton (35 points) became the third guard this year to light up Carolina for 30 points or more, showing again how much UNC misses stopper Marcus Ginyard, who is out for the season with a foot injury.

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UNC’s game with Vanderbilt is top secret

CHAPEL HILL – North Carolina’s men’s basketball team, a Final Four favorite, will play for the first time this season against Vanderbilt — on Nov. 2 at the Smith Center.

But it’s not on the preseason schedule.

You can’t buy a ticket. It won’t be on TV.

And the score will never be made public — if one is even kept.

“We can’t publicize it, can’t let fans in, can’t give out any stats,” said UNC associate athletic director Larry Gallo, who wouldn’t even name the opponent, place or date.

So: Shhhhhhh.

Under a strange NCAA rule, Division I teams such as UNC can only scrimmage against other Division I teams if it is done in secret — doors locked, no media, no fans, no official scoring. Even when it’s conducted in a public building.

Typically, the top teams in the nation play two exhibition games against lower-division schools, foreign teams or club squads.

But teams can substitute an “informal practice scrimmage,” as it is called in NCAA rules, for a preseason exhibition. The caveat: The only people allowed in are coaches, players and staff members necessary to conduct the workout. Recruits making official visits can also attend.

The (secret) practice rule has been around for about a decade. Wake Forest, for instance, scrimmaged UNC-Greensboro last year and has another conspicuous blank spot on its current preseason schedule. Davidson, which scrimmaged at Texas last season and made a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, will make a return trip to Austin in the coming weeks. Vanderbilt has also done it for the past few years.

But the private workout will be a first for the Tar Heels, who are looking to pit All-American Tyler Hansbrough and point guard Ty Lawson against better players than any Division II or III team can provide. Vanderbilt lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season and finished 26-8 under coach Kevin Stallings, a longtime friend of UNC coach Roy Williams.

Practice for NCAA teams officially begins at 5 p.m. today. The Tar Heels open the regular season on Nov. 15.

“[The private scrimmage] gives your guys an opportunity to practice against a top-ranked team, and sometimes to travel, be on the road, to go through the same routine and environment that you hope you’re going to see during the regular season,” said Davidson coach Bob McKillop, whose Southern Conference Wildcats have quietly worked out against a Division I foe for the past six seasons. He said he was not allowed to name the who and when of those opponents.

Why all the the secrecy? That remains unclear. NCAA spokeswoman Gail Dent said in an e-mail: “The motivation of the bylaw is the concern over the demands placed on student-athletes and the games/scrimmages they play.”

Exhibition games, she added, are similar to regular-season games which require media, and post- and pregame responsibilities. But not private scrimmages.

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Duke Clipboard


Duke coach David Cutcliffe was surprised to see Duke execute poorly and play passively on offense in the loss at Georgia Tech, considering the team had such a good week in practice. “Which concerns me,” Cutcliffe said Sunday. “Something isn’t correlating. We have to address it quickly.” In the past, he has turned up the heat on a daily drill called an inside drill. Backs and the O-line run inside plays against linebackers and the D-line. “We can’t afford to beat ourselves up too much,” Cutcliffe said. “But we need some full-speed contact to gain a little confidence running the football.”


P KEVIN JONES, WR RAPHAEL CHESTNUT: Duke would have lost the field-position battle much sooner than late in the third without strong work from both. Getting more hang time than in recent weeks, Jones averaged 39.2 yards on eight tries — a long day for a punter. Chestnut stopped one return for negative yardage and downed another at the Tech 2.


DEFENSE FOR 15-YARD PENALTIES: It’s tough to criticize a defense that kept Tech out of the end zone as long as it did. But the Devils agreed a roughing-the-passer call on DL Vince Oghobaase and pass interference on CB Jabari Marshall hurt. They represented another 30 yards the offense couldn’t make up on the other end, putting more pressure on the D, which pressed harder, then made mistakes, etc. Vicious cycle.

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UNC ranked No. 22

Tar Heels hope to stay grounded

CHAPEL HILL – North Carolina is back in The Associated Press Top 25 for the first time since November 2001. And the No. 22 Tar Heels hope they have finally found the running attack to keep them there.

Converted safety Shaun Draughn accounted for 109 of UNC’s 146 rushing yards during Saturday’s 38-12 blowout against then-No. 24 Connecticut. Draughn is just the second Tar Heels player this season – and first tailback – to exceed 100 rushing yards in a game.

Coach Butch Davis reiterated Sunday that the Tar Heels (4-1) need all three of their running backs — including Greg Little (three carries for 6 yards Saturday) and Ryan Houston (three carries, 39 yards, one touchdown)– to play well in order to be successful. Even so, it appears that Draughn, a sophomore from Tarboro who had netted just 97 yards total in his previous four games, has earned the right to be a bigger part of the attack.

“He’s got some real quickness, some explosiveness; he’s got some speed,” Davis said after Carolina matched last year’s win total. “Prior to this season, he was an unknown commodity; we had no idea what he would bring to the football team. He’s protected the ball well, and he’s run the ball well and he’s making some plays.”

Quarterback Cameron Sexton said the tailbacks and offensive line “made it a mission to be better” against the Huskies.

“We’re winning games, but these guys are hearing, ‘We can’t run the football, we can’t run the football,’ and [they] were getting tired of hearing about it,” Sexton said. “So I think those guys said, ‘We’re going to go run the football. We need to do it.’ ”

And they did it from the beginning.

After UNC’s first offensive series of the game — during which Little rushed once for no gain — Draughn entered for the second series and carried four times for 27 yards, pushing the Tar Heels into field-goal range.

Davis said Draughn was inserted early because “he played well against Miami; he popped a big, long run against Miami that was unfortunately called back by a holding call. Somewhat like how the quarterback situation went against Miami – he got in, he got hot. He made some runs, and we kind of stayed with it from that standpoint.”

A shuffle along the offensive line might have been a factor. Lowell Dyer made his first start of the season at center, allowing Aaron Stahl (who had missed time in practice after having two wisdom teeth removed) to shift back to left guard. Alan Pelc started there, in place of the injured Bryon Bishop, but Stahl was in the game early at the position he played last season.

Draughn, who also scored on a 39-yard touchdown sprint in the third quarter, said the line and tailbacks didn’t do anything different from early in the season. “We’re just getting better at it,” he said.

“We always make an emphasis on running the ball, because we need to have two threats coming in.”

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Davis credits UNC’s preparation

Tar Heels dominated game against Rutgers after so-so win over McNeese State

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – North Carolina coach Butch Davis was pleased by his team’s dominating Thursday night performance at Rutgers Stadium.

But what might bode the brightest for the Tar Heels’ continued rebuilding effort — and their ACC opener against Virginia Tech next weekend — is what they did before the 44-12 victory.

“The preparation we had prior to tonight’s ballgame was about as good as we’ve had in the 18 months I’ve been a head coach,” Davis said after his team broke its 20-game losing streak outside the state of North Carolina.

“We were very disappointed in ourselves and the way we played a week ago against McNeese State, and I think our players really responded.”

Davis said the coaches were tough on the players after UNC’s unimpressive season-opening victory Aug. 30. The Tar Heels went full speed, he said, and “we had four practices last week that were probably harder than any practices we had during training camp. It was old-school football; we went out and we worked and we hit and we tackled; we did a lot of stuff. And they responded.”

Indeed, the Tar Heels players credited the focused, sometimes grueling workouts for their most lopsided victory since beating Duke 52-17 in 2001.

Although the defense gave up 383 yards, the Scarlet Knights didn’t convert a play of more than 25 yards and finished 0-for-9 on third downs. Most important: UNC’s secondary was noticeably more physical than in Week 1, making hard hits and snagging four interceptions — something they focused on during the previous 10 days on the practice field.

“If the scout team gained one yard, we got blessed out about it,” said cornerback Kendric Burney, who grabbed one of the picks.

UNC still didn’t have an individual 100-yard rusher, but the offensive line was more cohesive and consistently opened more holes. The Tar Heels gained 157 yards on the ground, and quarterback T.J. Yates was sacked only once.

Another product of some intense workouts.

“Coach Davis was jumping everybody,” tailback Shaun Draughn said after a practice several days after the McNeese State win. “All that losing — that mentality — we need to get it out of our head.”

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Cutcliffe has Duke thinking positively

DURHAM – In years past, Duke’s football team would not have defeated Navy on Saturday in Wallace Wade Stadium.

Instead of a 41-31 Duke win, here’s what would have happened:

* Navy would have forced a couple of turnovers late.

* The Blue Devils defense would have gone into a surrender posture during the fourth quarter.

* What few fans in the stadium at kickoff would have found relief from the steamy heat at halftime, never to return.

* The little things would have gone the other way — the Navy way — and Duke would have gladly settled for the consolation of a competitive loss.

But Duke is no longer the Duke of old, and certainly not the Duke football program of the past several years. Such is the influence of first-year coach David Cutcliffe, who quickly has convinced one of the country’s most downtrodden programs that there can be no real comfort in defeat.

“We’re a different team,” star receiver Eron Riley said. “Last year, when we played them, we lost [46-43], but we thought we were the better team. It’s about how you close the deal. We didn’t do that then. Now, we can.”

So different are the Blue Devils that they now will take a 2-1 record into this week’s open date.

The one loss — 24-20 against Northwestern — hardly was the sort of embarrassment that Duke fans have come to expect, and accept, and there’s not strong reason to think the Blue Devils can’t move on to 3-1 and 1-0 in the ACC when they face Virginia here on Sept. 27.

Heck, Cutcliffe is probably no more than three or four more wins away from wrapping up ACC Coach of the Year, and he’s doing it without Sarah Palin serving as an assistant or with a single pit bull wearing lipstick on the defensive line.

“They’re getting it done; give them credit,” said Navy’s first-year coach Ken Niumatalolo. “Coach Cutcliffe has done a great job of getting them to believe in what they’re doing.”

What Cutcliffe is doing isn’t all that exotic. Yes, he has opened up the passing game more than was the case under previous coach Ted Roof, but Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis is still a ball-control passer who looks first to Riley (three touchdown receptions against the Middies) and then to various other short-route receivers.

The Duke ground game still doesn’t scare anyone, but it is productive enough to keep opponents honest.

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