Irises with a flat form are common in some of the beardless species and have occasionally appeared in bearded iris seedling beds over the years, as well. Altho they've never been very popular with the gardening public, nor with iris aficionados, several have been introduced over the years for their novelty value and individual beauty. Recently, flat formed Siberian irises have made an appearance, mainly thru the work of hybridizers in Japan looking to mimic the form of that nation's namesake iris. Here are a few I grow and love. Click the photos to embiggen.
I grow mainly historic irises, so most of my flatties are of the old diploid varieties. The oldest variety is 'Clematis', Arthur Bliss' lovely creation from 1917. 'Clematis' does not always show it's flat form. Buds opening during cool weather open to normal iris blooms, as the one in the background of this pic shows. Buds opening in warm weather magically open wide into a lovely imitation of a clematis bloom. For some reason warm weather causes the pattern, color and habit of the falls to be splashed almost entirely over the petals of the standards, causing them to look and act like the falls. Vigorous growth and loads of buds makes this a stand out iris.
'Japanesque' is similar in that the standards, like the falls, are heavily marked in a broken color pattern, so the flowers tend to be a little messier than 'Clematis'. A creation of Bertrand Farr from 1922, it is a riotous melody of white, lavender and deep velvety purple. It often opens multiple blooms at once along the stalks and a clump makes an impressive show. It adds a very fun and lively note to the iris garden.
You'd never know to look at it, but 'Rhythm' is actually from 1950. Its very old fashioned form and pattern is due to one of its parents being from two 1920's varieties. 'Rhythm' is a true flattie in that it has six full falls and no standards. Each petal has a full beard and it lays perfectly flat. The blooms are a remarkably beautiful blend of golds and purples heavily veined in white, and have a lovely flare to them.
The last two flatties I have to show you are Siberians. 'Helicopter' (Shidara, by Ben Hager I.1988) and 'Parasol' (Shidara, I.1997). I do not know much about these irises, other than they are both gorgeous flowers featuring six falls. 'Parasol' is a medium orchid tone with bright gold signals, while 'Helicopter' is a deep blue violet with white signals. Both make airy open clumps with numerous blooms floating on graceful 30" stalks. They have received much comment from visitors. I think this is a form of Siberian that is wide open for further development and improvement. I'm growing several dozen seedlings from them which I look forward to seeing in the coming years.
I hope you've enjoyed this peek into a few irises that you may not have been familiar with before. If you enjoy the novelty of this untraditional form consider adding some flatties to your iris collection or flower garden.
And if you enjoy historic irises please check out the new eZine I am publishing for hips-roots.com. Issue #1 is out now and free for the downloading on our website.