When the tall bearded iris season is over in June, it marks the end of iris bloom to the average gardener for another year. So often people have remarked to me, "Iris are very beautiful, but what I don't like about them is that they have such a short blooming season!" New pathways to adventure in iris-growing are now possible with varieties that bloom throughout the four seasons of the year.
Early spring, with its first crocus, brings Iris Recticulata into flower in our gardens. This is a species well worth discovering. Its name is derived from the Latin word for a little net and conies from the network of fibrous roots forming the outer coat of the bulb. Discovered by Bieberstein in the 19th century, it is a native of the Caucasus, and is quite hardy. The original Iris reticulata is blue- or red-purple. It has no stem, as the flowers are borne on the short perianth tube.
Two varieties, Histroides and Vartani, are especially worthy of note because an iris fancier in England reports success in potting them in mid-September, bringing them indoors and having lovely blooms in January. Histroides, a native of Asia Minor, is blue-purple in color and Vartani, a native of Palestine, discovered by Dr. Vartan of Nazareth, is pale lavender. gray. Some varieties are spotted with blue on a white background and the blooms give off a strong almond scent.
Iris of the reticulata group like a well-drained soil that Is rich in humus and does not lack lime. They like a sheltered, sunny location in the garden for winter and early spring bloom along a true compliment to the newly installed low voltage outdoor lighting.
Early spring also brings us Japonica into the garden picture. This lovely variety from central China and Japan belongs to the family of crested iris, also known as Evansia in honor of Thomas Evans, who introduced them into England more than a century ago. Their distinguishing characteristic is a linear crest instead of a beard. Iris japonica's blooms are so orchid-like that it is often called the "orchid iris," and for this reason it was a great favorite in corsages. Its blooming time is February and March and the blossoms are light lavender with a deep yellow crest and violet spotting on the haft. The flowers appear on 18-inch stems. Preferring a mild climate, it does well in filtered sunshine or afternoon shade, and in a light soil rich in humus.
Another group that merits wider acquaintance in this country is the April-blooming Juno iris. Native to the shores of the Mediterranean, Asia Minor, northern Mesopotamia and Turkestan, and even up to the northwestern frontiers of India, these, too, are bulbous iris, and have characteristic thick, fleshy roots attached to the bulb. Great care must he observed when transplanting not to break these roots.
IRIS ALATA, belonging to the June group, has been successfully grown in pots indoors in England. When potted in mid-October it will bloom before Christmas. I. alata is native to Spain, Sicily and North Africa. The blooms are blue and it gets its name "alata" because the haft of the fall, or outer edge of the flower, expands into two large wings which fold around and enclose the style branch; hence, the name, "winged" or "butterfly" iris. The blooms, which appear on 2-inch stems, have a vanilla fragrance.
Following upon the heels of the tall bearded and Siberian iris comes the group mistakenly called English iris, which bloom in late June and early July.
Actually they are derived from Iris xiphoides. native to the Pyrenees of Spain, but were taken to Bristol by seafaring men and later became so closely. identified with the British Isles that they came to be known as English iris. The blooms are delightful in their dainty pastel colorings, often mottled in hue, lending themselves exquisitely to the midsummer garden picture. They do best in a cool. moist. well-drained soil.
English iris are bulbous and closely related to the Dutch and Spanish iris, Dutch iris flower about two weeks before the Spanish sorts and have larger flowers. There is a wide range of colors in the many new varieties offered. They should be planted in October and dug annually as soon as the foliage has withered.
Before their season has ended the dramatic Japanese iris take the center of the stage. The Japanese iris or I. KAEMPFERI, was first introduced into Europe in 1857 by von Siebold, a Dutch physician, and was named for Dr. Kaempfer, another Dutch physician.
In culture, Iris kaempferi is entirely opposite to that of the tall bearded iris. The Japanese grow them where they are flooded in the spring and summer, but drained in the winter. They demand abundant water before and during their blooming season. They also like a rich soil to which well-rotted barnyard manure has been added, and they can be grown in an acid soil similar to that required by rhododendrons. Unlike any other iris, their blooms are flat, umbrella-like. The double varieties often have blooms as large as dinner plates on 2-foot stems. In solid colors they range from rich reddish purple splashed with gold at the haft to pure white similarly splashed with gold.
Besides these, one may choose from an infinite variation of mixed color patterns-striped, marbled or veined in a veritable galaxy of rainbow tints, to which a luscious shade of raspberry has recently been introduced. Truly, Japanese iris offer a fantasy of color that literally dazzles the beholder during their fabulous blooming season, which lasts through the month of July.
In late July, August and September the pageantry of iris is carried on by a little-known species, fats DICHOTOAIA. It is also known as vesper iris, as it opens in the late afternoon and closes in early evening. This iris is native to eastern Siberia, Mongolia and northern China. These iris need a warm, sunny position in the garden with abundant water during midsummer when they are making their growth before blooming.
Fall Blooming Varieties
At the end of the summer the tall bearded iris again enter the garden picture in the form of the fall-blooming varieties. These varieties bloom in the spring, but in milder climates, and with a little persuasion, in some northern locations, will bloom again in the fall.
From November until March we can have bus STYLOSA blooming in our gardens. This is the most well-known winter-blooming species, which is also called Iris unguicularis. It belongs to the beardless group and is native to Algeria, and to a lesser degree the Greek Islands. The flowers are blue or lavender with white reticulations and yellow markings on the falls and a sprinkling of gold on the narrow style. This iris can be blooming in our gardens at Christmastime, which may surprise many who never dreamed of iris blooms in terms of Christmas displays. It does well in dry, poor soil.
Iris is not a one-month flower. By trying some of these interesting species from far-away lands you can have iris blooming the year round. Not only will they provide flowers at unusual times, but you will be amazed at their vast diversity of form and color.
Kent Higgins has much more to say on the the subject of path lighting. Become acquainted with it’s visited by 1,000’s each day because of quality content in the world of outdoor landscape, flowers, houseplants and lawns.