By Mike Unser
For those of you familiar with my 'Iris Classics' posts you may be surprised at this selection. Instead of the usual antique from the dawn of iris history, this week I'd like to highlight an iris that is just barely historic by current standards. In 1980 Allan Esminger introduced his Intermediate Bearded masterpiece 'Az Ap' thru Varigay Gardens, and what a stellar iris it is! It begins blooming with the other IBs at the tail of the SDB season, but it just keeps going, & keeps going, & then puts out still more stalks well into the mid-to-late Tall Bearded season here in my PNW garden.
Averaging 20" here, it is a charming variety with flare and personality in spades. The abundant blooms are a lovely pale blue washed and flecked deeper medium blue with a blue beard, lightly ruffled and heavily diamond dusted. The nicely branched stalks come loaded with multiple buds and a mature clump puts on a phenomenal show over a long period. The foliage is clean, the plant vigorous and reliable of bloom - in every respect it is a great garden plant, and an asset to the iris family.
It has a very involved parentage: 'Charmed Circle' X 73-1: (('Spring Salute' x (('Patience' x Welch N503) x ('Jungle Shadows' x pumila))) x ((('Jungle Shadows' x pumila) x ('Jungle Shadows' x 'Cretica')) x (('Jungle Shadows' x 'Cretica') x Kavan 11-66))). Interesting that it heavily features one of my all time favorites, 'Jungle Shadows'. Such good quality has not gone unrecognized: It won Honorable Mention in 1982; Award of Merit in 1984; and the Sass Medal in 1987.
It catches the sun and reflects back warmth and loveliness in abundance. In my opinion it is one of the very best of its class, and one other IBs should be judged against. If you are looking for impeccable performance along with unparalleled beauty you would be wise to incorporate 'Az Ap' into your garden. It is a classic, without a doubt.