WAS:Notholirion & Iris; NOW: Just Iris

James Waddick jwaddick@kc.rr.com
Sat, 07 Jun 2008 08:29:09 PDT
Iain wrote:

>IRIS. ...two here have cheered me up no .., the first is Iris 
>milesii and the second is Iris typhifolia but missing out Iris 
>lutescens would be a mistake although it is now 'going over' a bit. 
>The next big job, Iris maackii will be in a couple of weeks so 
>plenty to look forward to.

Dear Iain and all,
	Iris milesii is a sadly overlooked relative of the far more 
common I. tectorum. I. milesii has been called the 'red' iris 
although it is far from true to color, it is reminiscent of a crested 
iris in flower  and a bearded iris in growth form. A bit tender here, 
I have grown it off and on from seed, but it fails in a hard winter. 
Defintely recommended.

	I. typhifolia and I. maackii have an odd somewhat similar 
history. Both grow in extreme NW China around the Amur and Ussuri 
River swamps on the Russian border. Both were described a long time 
ago (the former in the 1920s, the later around 1880) but both were 
introduced to cultivation (partly by me) around my first trip to 
China (1989)  and discussed in detail in my book on the Iris of China

	Iris typhifoia was greeted with some skepticism partly 
because the two other species of (garden*) Siberian Iris are so well 
known and at first growing looked nothing very special. Its 
uniqueness soon became apparent. The gently twisted Cattail (Typha) 
like foliage and clear blue-violet flowers easily 6 weeks ahead of 
all others in bloom. Today (partly due to my distribution of seeds 
and seedlings) the species is firmly in cultivation and many hybrids 
with other species have extended the bloom season of Siberian Irises 
in a major way. Today it is fully accepted and considered a prime 
garden plant.

	I maackii remains problematical as Iain suggested. The 
original collection consisted of seed pods only, later id'ed as I 
laevigata. But no other yellow iris is considered native 
there...unless the later plants were wild I. pseudacorus perhaps a 
local form. In cultivation it behaves like I pseudacorus and 
hybridizes readily. Considering the weedy attributes of I. 
pseudacorus, I maacki has not been so readily accepted as a garden 
iris. It is for the iris fan and a great object of study.

	And speaking of iris, I don't think we have discussed the 'so 
called' English iris here in quite a while. The species I latifolia 
is NOT native to England, but  the French/Spanish Pyrenees. It is 
bulbous and two color forms are in bloom right now in my garden: 'Mt. 
Blanc' a pure white and 'King of the Blues' a deep velvety 
blue-purple with a great bright yellow signal on the falls. They are 
very similar to Dutch Iris, but more reliable and hardy (we HAVE 
discussed the difficulty of Dutch Iris as garden plants). The flowers 
of English Iris are larger and with good substance. There are many 
named cvs, but few regularly available. None are yellow (unlike Dutch 
Iris). The older name I xiphiodes, is sometime erroneously used for 
the species

	I have grown these before and recall loosing them in either 
an especially cold winter or very dry summer (they hate both). 
Growing to about 2 ft tall, they are suitable to middle of any 
perennial beds and their clear bright colors are excellent. Usually 
fairly inexpensive as fall bulbs, give them a try.

	And further, the nearly bulbous spurias are in bloom as Jim 
McK mentioned. The rhizomes can be short and nearly woody, but can 
also be treated like a bulbs (almost) when dormant. They run a range 
of colors from white to yellow, blue, blue, purple and reddish brown 
and every combination. I especially like the pure clear colors that 
stand out in the garden. Once established they are long (VERY LONG) 
lived and carefree.  If they have a fault it is their potentially 
large size in both height and spread. Foliage and stems can top 3 ft 
and really old clumps can spread 20 feet across (but glorious in 
bloom). Some newer cvs are not as floriferous as they should be, but 
newer colors and form are excellent.

	Most people think of Iris as spring flowers, but growing a 
range of types you can have flowers over a very long period and we 
aren't nearly over the Iris season which easily extend to July and 
August before the reblooming types start up again.

	I seem to have gotten carried away...again.  Try more species 
if you have the room.	Enjoy

			Best	Jim W.

* as opposed to the 40 chromosome of Sino-Siberian irises.

Dr. James W. Waddick
8871 NW Brostrom Rd.
Kansas City Missouri 64152-2711
Ph.    816-746-1949
Zone 5 Record low -23F
	Summer 100F +

More information about the pbs mailing list