One of my favorite types of iris is hardly known to the general gardening public: arilbreds. These striking plants are deserving of much more attention.
What is an arilbred? The term aril applies to two groups of irises: the oncocyclus from the Middle East, and the Regelias from central Asia. (The word "aril" is a term for the prominent white color seen on the seeds of these types of iris.) These aril irises, although some of the most spectacular flowers in the genus Iris, often proved difficult to propagate and maintain in northern Europe or the US. Arilbred irises are the result of crossing these aril irises with the more familiar bearded irises. Many earlier breeders making these kinds of crosses were dreaming of flowers like those of the aril irises on plants that were as easy to grow as bearded irises. Today, this dream has largely become reality. Along the way, the endless gene combinations gave rise to a huge variety of flower types not even imagined before.
|Seeds of an oncocyclus iris. Note the fleshy white collar or "aril", from which aril irises take their name.|
Arilbred irises come in so many different colors, patterns, and forms that it is unwise to generalize about their appearance. Many, however, have large, globular blooms, a dark signal spot below the beard, and intricate veining.
|'New Vision' (Tasco, 2012). Note the large dark signal and globular form. (Photo: Superstition Iris Gardens)|
|'Navajo Velvet' (McAllister, 2009).|
|'Oyez' (White, 1938). Note the intricate veining.|
|'Parable' (Johnson, 2011). (Photo: Mid-America Garden)|
|'Eyes on You' (Black, 2012). (Photo: Mid-America Garden)|
|'Refiner's Fire' (McGrath, 2007). (Photo: Pete McGrath)|
|'Aladdin's Gem' (Thoolen, 2002). One of the smallest arilbreds.|
Have you tried arilbred irises in your garden? How do they like your climate?