Iris x albicans, was Variable Texas weather

Jane McGary
Sun, 26 Jan 2014 11:38:06 PST
Cynthia wrote:
>Thought to be within the 100 mile or so distance from thr Texas 
>coast that discourages bearded iris cultuvars from thriving, altho 
>Iris x albicans, thought to have come here through the Spanish, who 
>probably originally received it from North Africa. It's reported to 
>traditionally have been planted in cemeteries, giving rise to one of 
>its common names, the Cemetary iris (or, White Flag). Sterile, but 
>can be found almost everywhere in Central Texas, sometimes in 
>pastures where there is no longer any hint of a house.

In Spain I photographed a large colony of Iris x albicans in what is 
now a vacant space near ruins in Ronda, apparently a medieval Muslim 
cemetery, where it had grown on and on for centuries. I've also seen 
it in ancient olive groves in the eastern Mediterranean. About 30 
years ago I bought this plant and found it far too robust for my 
protected bulb collection, then in frames, so I moved it to the open 
garden, where it flourished despite winter lows regularly around 15 
F. Even though it isn't a particularly attractive plant, I brought it 
along to the new garden three years ago for its historical interest. 
As Cynthia noted, it does not set seed.

Bearded irises in general can survive this way. Some years ago Brian 
Mathew, author of the particularly useful book "The Iris" (among many 
of his useful titles!), visited Portland to speak to our NARGS 
chapter, and we all went out to the Catherine Creek botanical 
preserve in Washington. At the site of a long-vanished homestead Dr. 
Mathew spotted a dwarf bearded iris that hadn't been noticed in any 
of the plant inventories for the preserve.

As I drive around Portland in late spring I often see huge clumps of 
bearded irises that obviously haven't been cared for over the years 
but have flourished anyway. I'm tempted to ask for rhizomes of these 
enthusiastic survivors, though I no longer really have room for them. 
When I went through a bearded iris phase (as many of us probably 
have) years ago, I found that many of the newer cultivars aren't good 
garden plants, being intolerant of the competition that comes with a 
mixed border.

Jane McGary
Portland, Oregon, USA

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