Saturday, May 14, 2011

Against the Grain - In Praise of Delicacy

I hope everyone has had a chance to see the great article in the latest issue of Irises on Siberian Irises, written by Marty Schafer. I am loving the color trends coming in from these great hybridizers. I can't wait to grow some in my own garden.

However, I grow three varieties that are the polar opposite of current siberian trends - and they thrill me just as much! I love these blooms for their delicacy, petite size and narrow old-fashioned form. These three are a far cry from the wide, flaring petals, large blooms and thick substance of todays beauties. (As always, click the photos to embiggen.)

This beautiful white is a very old variety known as 'Snow Prince'. It was never officially registered as such and another iris bears that name now. Its chartreuse buds open to reveal small and delicate flowers of creamy white with a slight purple flush in the throat, and amber and cordovan veining on the hafts. The petals are translucent and the sunlight streams right thru, lighting them up like crystals. 'Snow Prince' tends to clump tightly and stems from the center grow taller than those on the edges so in full bloom it appears to be a bubbling fountain. It is a small plant as well, rarely getting taller than 30" for me.

'Flight Of Butterflies' is a masterpiece of a flower. A creation of Jean Witt, it was registered in 1972. A more apt name for this variety could not have been found. The small flowers have standards of bright blue-violet over falls that are white heavily veined in bright purple, and most reminiscent of a butterfly's wing. Even its buds are beautifully veined. A clump in full bloom makes a stunning show in the perennial border. The stems are loaded with buds and it has a long bloom time, making even more enjoyable. The foliage is narrow and very grass-like, which makes it useful even when not in bloom.

Last, but never least, is I. chrysographes, a wonderful species siberian from China. The one in my garden is from seed wild-collected and grown by Dan Hinkley at Heronswood, years ago. Garden named by him as 'Kiwi Black' this luscious velvety black flower features long narrow petals, with wispy standards over dog-eared falls that are lightly waved and only slightly flared. What an effect a mature clump gives in full bloom! It is a favorite of visitors to my display garden.

I do hope that there is room in the iris world for all types of flower forms and that varieties with delicate and evanescent traits and perhaps a more 'spidery' aspect can be appreciated and bred for. In my own planned crosses I'm imagining a flat form siberian with the dark black of I. chrysographes and long narrow petals floating prolifically over narrow grassy foliage. They would be a wonderful contrast to our new big beautiful show-offs.

Look for opportunities in your garden to go against the grain and use these beautiful delicate siberians to their best advantage. Interesting flowers on their own, they can add a delicate texture and festive note to your flower garden that the large showy moderns lack. I promise, you'll be thrilled, too.

Note: Blogger had some major technical issues this past week and the post by AIS editor Kelly Norris was lost. We hope he will be able to recreate it.

1 comment:

  1. These spidery irises are so graceful. Thank you for the photographs. I chrysographes is especially lovely, with the appearance of an exotic orchid.