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Experience the thrill of growing Iris

All about The Iris

The iris must be a favorite of nature for there are many different kinds, each endowed with a special charm, and the many kinds are widely distributed over the northern hemisphere.

There are, to class the various types simply and most informally, the bearded, the beardless and the crested. The bearded class consists of plants so completely unlike in height, blooming season and other characteristics that it may be divided into five distinct groups: dwarf, intermediate and tall bearded, onco bearded and oncocyclus-regelia species and hybrids.

The beardless class naturally divides itself into plants that grow from fibrous or rhizomatous rootstocks and plants that grow from bulbs or corms.

As for the irises that have a crest, situated where the beard is in the first classification, they are so few that it is not necessary to separate them into groups.

Bearded Iris

Bearded or pogon iris vary greatly. The dwarfs may be so short that the tips of their petals actually touch the ground. The intermediates may be 1 to 2 feet high while the beloved tall bearded varieties may exceed 5 feet. As might be expected, the dwarfs bloom first, the intermediates next and the tall ones later on. Very recent developments, however, are upsetting this orderly sequence of bloom. Hybridizers have crossed a certain type of the species pumila with the tall bearded and produced a new race of plants (some of which are very short) that bloom any time from the dwarf to the late tall bearded season. This iris, too new to have appeared on the market, should prove valuable as edging and rock garden subjects.

Most people are familiar with the tall bearded iris that make a dazzling display of every tint and shade in the rainbow after the late tulips and before the daylilies. They are easy to grow and most magnificent, most permanent of hardy perennials. The intermediates are as beautiful, if less stately, and the winsome dwarfs, early-and free-flowering, are true miniatures of their splendid relative.

The onco-bearded hybrids, produced from the oncocyclus species of Palestine and the tall bearded, closely parallel the latter in beauty, use and cultural requirements. Typical of this group are the popular Lady Mohr, Elmohr and Morning Blue.

The oncocyclus and regalia species, however, are quite different in colors, requirements and even form. They insist on conditions that approximate the wet springs and long, dry summers of their native lands. Rhizomes must be lifted in most parts of the country, stored in dry place over summer and replanted in fall. The gray, black-spotted Iris susiana (an onco) and the elongated, pale lavender I. korolkowi (a regalia that’s veined weirdly with black purple) are typical of the preposterously lovely species and the varieties Thor, Psyche and Andromache of the hybrids derived from them.

The Siberian, among beardless or apogon iris, stem mainly from I. sibirica and I. orientalis. They thrive in semi-shade or sun in any good garden soil and, when left undisturbed for several years, make dense, showy clumps, ranging from white through the blues to deep purple and wine red. They are on of the finest plants for the perennial border in the whole iris family.

Spurias, too, are easy to grow. Once established, they bloom profusely in the same spot for many years. Their sword-like foliage is especially attractive: new, lighter, green leaves mingle with older dark green ones to give clumps an interesting variegated effect. Like the Siberians, they are immune to soft rot and may be fertilized heavily.

Japanese iris differ from the other beardless sorts in that they require more water and a definitely acid soil. In Japan they are grown in depressed beds that are flooded before and during the blooming period. This, however, is unnecessary since they respond to good, rich, loamy soil and surface watering during their growing season.

Louisiana iris, found in the semi-tropical swamps of the lower Mississippi Valley, are very adaptable. They even take to northern gardens if covered in winter. They appreciate frequent applications of rotted manure and all the water they can get, prospering, when treated properly, and blooming to capacity.

There are, too, the wild iris of the Central and Atlantic states. The species I. virginica grows from the Texas border to eastern Virginia where it gives way to I. versicolor. Neither hybridizes with other types although there is great variation in their seedlings. Certain collected forms of both are ideal for plantings around pools, ponds and low spots in general. Since I. pseudacorus, the yellow iris of central Europe, has the same requirements and may be used as virginica and versicolor are used, it may be grouped with them.

A very beautiful group of native iris is also found in the Pacific Northwest. The available varieties—mostly forms or hybrids of the two species I. douglasiana and I. innominata—are low in stature and fond of a heavy, acid soil. Mature plants are very difficult to transplant but young seedlings can be moved easily enough. Both species are a little difficult to grow in the East but well worth the trouble, particularly in rock gardens.

Beardless Iris- Bulbous

In times past, about the only small, early-flowering bulbous iris available was I. reticulate. More recently, several other species have been imported and made available at fairly reasonable prices.

The species reticulate and histrioides are very hardly, requiring only a sunny situation that drains only a sunny situation that drains well. But since I. bkerianan and I. danfordiae will seixe upon any sunny day in the winter kill. All four species are find for the border, the rock garden and, to some extent, for naturalizing in the lawn.

Except in the far South, Dutch and Spanish iris should be dug after blooming and stored, as gladiolus bulbs are stored, until late fall or the following spring. They may be planted at intervals for a succession of bloom. Both types are valuable as cut flowers. In fact, the variety Wedgwood is a favorite florists’ flower.

Crested Iris

Two members of the crested group—I. cristata and I. tectorum—are familiar to many gardeners. The first is a native of the South and is used by wild garden enthusiasts in moist, semi-shaded places. The second, a native of Japan, is a shallow-rooted, hardy, floriferous plant that’s lovely in borders. The white form of I. tectorum, however, is slightly tender.

Less well known are the species I. garcilipes, a hardy rock garden iris from Japan, and the tender I. japonica which has many-branched stalks that carry numerous ruffled flowers resembling spray orchids. Unfortunately, except in California and the Gulf Coast, I. japonica must be grown in the greenhouse.

The chart names the 14 types of iris discussed in this article and gives their pertinent characteristics. A few varieties of each type that have proven themselves to be dependable plants are named on the following page.

Dependable Iris Varieties

Tall bearded- Amandine (cream), Azure skies (lavender blue), Cloth of Gold (yellow), Distance (light blue), Blue Rhythm (medium blue), Master Charles (purple), Pink Sensation (pink), Pink Formal (shrimp pink), New Snow (white), Argus Pheasant (copper-rose), Sunset Blaze (rose blend).

Intermediate Bearded- Eleanor Roosevelt (blue-purple), Ivory Elf (cream), Alaska (white), Zua (pale gray lavender), Crysoro (yellow), Red Orchid (red-purple), Pigmy Gold (yellow).

Dwarf Bearded- Cream Tart (cream), Green Spot (white and green), Fairy Flax (light blue), Baria (pale yellow), Sound Money (yellow), Tiny Tony (purple), Tampa (red), Keepsake (yellow).

Onco-Bearded- Lady Mohr (cinnamon tan), Elmohr (purple), Morning Blue (gray blue), Heigho (purple).

Onco-Regelia- I. susiana and korolkowi (species), Thor, Psyche, Andromache, Luna, Lucia (all veined and dotted in shades of purple and brown).

Siberian- Gatineau (blue), Cool Spring (blue), Mountain Lake (blue), Caesar’s Brother (purple), Tycoon (purple), Eric the Red (wine red), Snowcrest (white).

Spurias- Sunny Day (yellow), Monteagle (red purple), Hazy Hills (lavender), Saugatuck (blue and gold), Russet Flame (red brown), Wadi Zem Zem (large yellow).

Japanese- Helene (white, penciled deep blue), Mrs. J. A. Hayden (white, suffused light violet blue), Nishiki Yama (white with foxglove red border), Catherine Parry (medium blue), Higo Strain, Appare (deep crimson shading to light rose, narrow white veins), Toyama-Garasu (magenta rose, light purple styles), Hisakata (deep midnight blue).

Louisiana- Caddo (deep wine red), Royal Gem (red purple), Kraemer Yellow (light yellow), June Clouds (white), Bayou Sunset (red and gold), Cajan Joyous (rose blend).

Central and Eastern Natives- Claret Cup (wine red), I. virginica (blue), I. versicolor (blue-purple), I. pseudacorus (introduced, yellow).

Pacific Coast Natives- I. Douglasiana, I. innominata, I. tenax in variety (colors vary blue, purples and yellow).

Dwarf Bulbous- I. reticulate (purple), I. histrioides major (deep blue), I. bakeriana (blue), I. danfordiae (yellow), J.S. Dijt (red-purple), Krelagei (blue-purple), Cantab (light blue).

Large Bulbous- National Velvet (dark blue), Blue Horizon (light blue), Bronze Queen (bronze), Royal Purple (purple), White Superior (white), Golden Harvest (medium yellow), Golden Lion (deep gold), Princess Irene (yellow blend).

Crested- Dwarf- I. cristata (pale blue), I. gracilipes (lavender). Border-I. tectorum (lavender purple), tectorum album (white). Pot Culture

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