"The Gardener's Iris Book" describes itself as an introductory book for American gardeners. In my own experience, books about irises tend to fall into two categories: beautiful and fun to read, but not particularly useful or well-organized; and books that I can take out into the garden and actually use. This volume manages to straddle both categories, which is good because I like to look at beautiful pictures of irises, but I've also discovered that they are not particularly easy to grow. I've lost two complete plantings of Bearded Irises to borers, and even managed to kill off a bed of hardy Siberian irises.
Why bother with a touchy plant that has such a short growing season? That's easy: because they're one of the most beautiful flowers in the garden when they do bloom.
The author has a gift for clear, succinct phrasing, very well-suited for a 'how to' manual on growing irises. He also loves his subject--in the chapter on Louisiana Irises, he refers to himself as 'Johnny Iris Seed' because of his habit of planting his extra rhizomes in the mud at the margins of farm ponds, park pools, or even roadside ditches. "Most will establish themselves and give pleasure to passersby in years to come."
After forty years of growing irises, he has learned that a good garden springs from a healthy, living soil. He suggests using pesticides and commercial fertilizers only as a last resort. For instance, in the section on Iris borers, he starts with the least toxic methods for ridding your garden of these pests: carefully clean up your garden debris in late fall and early spring to limit the number of borers that will hatch. Monitor the young foliage fans for notches, then pinch the fan below the notches to squash any burrower (a mano a mano approach not recommended for the squeamish).
Irises can also be treated with beneficial nematodes. I tried this method one year with some success, although the neighbors probably wondered why I was running around with what looked like a horse hypodermic and sticking it into iris stems. According to this author, the nematodes can be sprayed on plants or used as a soil drench, so I can throw away my hypo.
"The Gardener's Iris Book" is fun to read straight through to the appendices on Iris specialist nurseries (listed by state), and iris books and computer resources. However the book is divided into sections that treat irises with similar growing characteristics, e.g. those requiring substantial moisture or those that thrive in dry conditions. These useful subdivisions allow the reader-in-a-hurry to concentrate on the irises that thrive in an environment most closely resembling his or her own garden.