By Bryce Williamson
White. A color so important in the garden and so often ignored. I would shock people when giving judges’ training with the idea that the two most important colors in the iris garden were yellow and white. I stick to that position—yellow bring a shaft of sunlight into the garden and whites are…
By Susanne Holland Spicker (Irises from l to r) ‘EXTRAVAGANT’ (Hamblin’84), ‘JUMP FOR JOY’ (Hager ’99), ‘CELEBRATION SONG’ (Schreiner ’93), ‘POEM OF ECSTASY’ (Hager ’97) with giant allium, ruffled poppy, roses and lupine make a colorful floral piece to beautify and bring the garden insideI have…
Looking for something different, or “novel”, in your Iris garden? Check out this post by Bonnie Nichols. Lots of fun Iris in this quick read.
By Bonnie Nichols“What are Novelty irises?” ………. I get this question almost every judges training class I teach. I tell everyone “according to the AIS Handbook for Judges” – Novelties are broken color, space age, flatties, and variegated foliage irises. That statement is somewhat still true; however, the advancement of Novelty irises is moving rapidly.…
Ms. Holland Spicker has once again assembled a perfect planning guide for companions in your Iris bed, this time for the pinks, reds and purples. Her use of collages of color and plants makes planning your decorative garden, and your next order of plants, super simple.
You might also take a peek at our Bearded Iris planting guide pages found on our website.
The Schreiner Family
By Susanne Holland Spicker’RED SKIES’ (Ghio ’07)”The garden: Where inspiration and creativity begins and it never ends”This time of year I like to pause and evaluate the previous gardening year. By now in zone 6 the irises have been divided or transplanted into new areas. Perennials were planted in the fall. Poor performers have been moved…
“..There are irises billed as red, but they veer toward shades of wine, brick or reddish brown.
What started as an informal race among growers to create a truly red iris has developed into a decades-long marathon. It persists despite advancements in science, and efforts to modify the flower genetically by Richard Ernst of Cooley’s Gardens outside Salem, Ore., in conjunction with researchers at Oregon State University.
In 2004, Mr. Ernst — a well-known hybridizer who for decades pursued the red iris the old-fashioned way, crossing varieties with characteristics deemed logical to produce a red — predicted that the genetic retooling efforts would be successful in time to show off a red iris at the national conference of the American Iris Society in May…” Read more in the NY Times article >>>>
White Iris serve a tremendous, grounding purpose in the garden. Their presence give rest to the eyes among the array of colors. They provide contrast to a group of darker blossoms. They pair beautifully with the green foliage surrounding throughout the garden. “White [iris] today have come a long way since the days of their famous ancestors. Ruffles, lace, and a sun-catching characteristic of the flower’s cells, colloquially called diamond dusting, top the list of adjectives used to describe white irises.” (Kelly Norris, “A Guide to Bearded Irises: Cultivating the Rainbow for Beginners and Enthusiasts”, pg 38)
Iris lovers heart blue. Actually, I think people heart blue. We’ve been long lost on a quest for true blue in nature, and when we do encounter it, it holds us in deep rapture. Fortunately for iris lovers that rapturous experience storms the garden each spring, laden with ruffles and sassy, audacious flowers.
Like yellow, blue covers a lot of ground, describing the world from the ocean to the sky. Color experts would distinguish true spectrum blue (105C on the RHS Colour Chart) from the violet-blue group of colors we register as wisteria blue, cornflower, bluebird, medium blue, and so on. Looking over the cumulative list of Dykes Medal winners, you can easily pick up on the judging electorate’s bias toward blue bearded irises.
Starting with ‘Sierra Blue’ (Essig 1932) in 1935, more than 18 irises of bluish colors (approximately 25 percent) have won the American Iris Society’s top honor, including some of the world’s most familiar and most often grown bearded irises: the light blue ‘Babbling Brook’ (Keppel 1969), the cold ocean water ‘Shipshape’ (Babson 1969), the waterfall-esque ‘Victoria Falls’ (Schreiner 1977), the bay-reflecting ‘Yaquina Blue’ (Schreiner 1992), and the tempestuous medium blue ‘Sea Power’ (Keppel 1999). The bearded iris world sports thousands of blue irises throughout the range just described, but spectrum blue bearded irises are inexplicably rare, with only one confirmed report in the Bulletin of the American Iris Society, from Virginia hybridizer Don Spoon, of its turning up in a seedling patch. Almost as rare are the blends with green – mainly turquoise. The SDB ‘Tu Tu Turquoise’ (Black 1989), the most famous turquoise iris, has given risen to other popular dwarfs of similar color, including ‘Miss Meredith’ (Spoon 2002) and ‘Bombay Sapphire’ (Black 2007) .
In bearded irises, the quest for the true blue iris has had many fortunate detours. The flood of blue tall bearded irises from the 1930s through the 1950s stems from ‘Great Lakes’ (Cousins 1938), ‘Blue Rhythm’ (Whiting 1945), and ‘Cahokia’ (Faught 1948), which when crossed with other blues of the day and whites like ‘Snow Flurry’ (Rees 1939) and ‘Purissima’ (Mohr-Mitchell 1927) gave rise to a tide of new introductions from breeders across the country, including the Schreiners of Oregon, who still lead the crowd of blue breeders. The same quest led hybridizer Paul Cook to discover the amoena pattern, incorporate new species (namely Iris reichenbachii and I. imbricata) into the genealogy of modern irises, and create a whole new class of irises – the standard dwarf beardeds. His Dykes Medal-winning ‘Whole Cloth’ (1958) and ‘Emma Cook’ (1957), an iris named for his wife, were the grand culminations of his work. But Cook discovered these pearls en route to a dark blue bearded iris free of influence from violet. The best representative of his work in this line was ‘Allegiance’ (1958), “universally recognized as one of the finest iris Mr. Cook has introduced” (Schreiner’s Iris Lovers Catalogue, 1958).
Excerpt from “A Guide to Bearded Irises: Cultivating the Rainbow for Beginners and Enthusiasts”; Kelly D. Norris; Timber Press, Inc., 2012. Pp: 32-35.
Reds, whites and blues, they can be had. And even though you won’t have these lovely Iris in your garden this time of year, we wish you a very Happy 4th of July!
~ The Schreiner Family
Easy to plant, easy to care for, easy to enjoy! That is the Iris. And such variety too! Variety of size, variety of bloom season, variety of color, variety of style. Isn’t success in life all about the choices we make? That simple maxim can apply to the realm of the flower garden too. The Iris offer such a host of choices, one is surely to find just the right color, or size, etc. Let’s talk about the breadth of bloom time, for example. The Miniature Dwarf Iris and the Standard Dwarf Iris are among the very first Iris to bloom. Weather depending, of course, they open up their diminutive blossoms, just 5 to 15 inches in height, approximately mid-March to early April (in most temperate zones), heralding the launch of another promising Iris season.
Weep not for the fading Dwarf Iris! For the Intermediate, Median, or Border Iris are opening on the garden scene. A bit taller than the tallest Dwarf, yet shorter than the shortest Tall Bearded Iris, they offer brilliant bloom to span the gap between March and May, a beautiful complement to the Cherry blossoms! The earliest blooming Tall Bearded Iris will overlap with the later-blooming Intermediate Iris, to create a seamless floral transition of color. Sprinkle in several mid-season and late-season Tall Bearded Iris around your garden, and the color show continues well into June.
Let’s have a few more words about these Dwarf Iris, though. The Hungarian language has a saying, “The pepper corn is small, but mighty.” (Kicsi a bors, de erős.) The same can be said about these Iris of smaller stature. They are no less hardy than their taller, more robust cousins. Dwarf Iris, both Miniature and Standard types, propagate with strength and, once in bloom, stand up to the early spring frosts. There are several wonderful resources available which provide great detail on the origins of these hybrids (quite fascinating, really). The Dwarf Iris Society is a good place to start for further links and leads on exploring the subject. Several Iris breeders today have introduced spectacular Bearded Iris cultivars in miniature.
A few moments spent even casually mapping out the succession of Iris blooms in your garden will yield months of rainbow color from your ankles to above your hips! Dwarf, Intermediate, Tall Bearded, as well as Beardless Iris, are all planted in the summer months. Below is a simple chart, indicating approximate bloom times for Iris ranging from the Miniature Dwarf to the Tall Bearded, and including the Beardless Iris such as Siberian and Louisiana. Bloom time is greatly dependent on weather conditions and gardening practices, however. For example, Reblooming Iris require regular fertilization and dividing.
Min. Dwf. & Std. Dwf.
(5″ to 15″; 5cm to 28cm)
Intermediates & Border
(16″ to 27″; 40cm to 68cm)
(28″ to 48″;70cm to 122cm)
Tall Bearded & Beardless
Reblooming Bearded Iris of all sizes
As Barbara Whitehouse and Bee Warburton write in their chapter entitled “Miniature Dwarf Beardeds”, in The World of Irises, (The American Iris Society, 1986) “…each iris lover should grow at least one or two clumps of them …. However, they are so charming that one or two clumps may ultimately become a whole bed or border.” (pg 145)….
If you are one who can hardly wait for the year’s Iris season to start, you have merely to plant some Dwarf Bearded Iris this summer. You will have Iris blooming with the first inkling of spring warmth. Even if you consider yourself simply a fan, a dabbler, a curious gardening newbie to the world of flowers, give the Dwarf Iris a try!
Do you grow Dwarf Iris? Share your comments below!
Bearded Iris really offer so much to the mixed perennial garden. The beauty they offer in the spring is uncontested, but we often get questions about what to do with the foliage after the spring bloom has faded. Culturally speaking, the foliage must remain intact through the summer growth phase. The foliage converts the energy to feed the growing rhizomes. Shorter foliage can limit the energy conversion. That said, we ourselves trim the foliage when we prepare our plants for order fulfillment. This practice of trimming foliage is also generally followed when gardeners divide and transplant Iris in their home gardens. The shorter foliage facilitates planting — the long blades of the Iris foliage can often prove too heavy for the newly planted rhizome to bear, causing the plant to become dislodged. Established Iris, of course, with their larger root systems, can bear the weight of the foliage.
Thus, we recommend leaving the foliage untrimmed throughout the summer months. Planted among other summer blooming perennials and shrubs, the vertical lines of the Iris foliage provide a wonderful counterpoint to other forms in your garden. The images here illustrate this point. These photos were taken in our Display Gardens in late July.
Back in the summer of 2012, we published a blog post on the subject of planting and trimming Bearded Iris. Take a look here at that post for more details on planting and trimming.
Thank you as always for reading. How do you appreciate the Iris foliage in your garden? Post a comment below.
And take a look at our summer sale and clearance pages. Some really terrific Iris can be had for some super low prices!