Love That New Iris No Matter What
May 26, 2011
“Don’t judge a book by its cover”. An old saying that is appropriate today as it was when first attested in the journal 'American Speech' in 1952.(1) Many of us purchase irises, especially new introduction, by a picture in a catalog and then are disappointed because is not exactly what the pictures looked like. I hear complaints from many, especially those new to irises that a dark iris pictured in the catalog is only just another purple. Well, such is life and nature. Each of us, even those that live next door to each other, have different micro-climates and soil contents. The soil content is the greatest factor that we control with the addition of compost, lime, chemicals, fertilizers, and plant material. The color and form of an iris can also be affected by: how long since the rhizome was planted; the amount of weeds vying for nutrients; the age of the bed; the base material of the bed; the amount of rain fall; temperature; wind; and even more factors that many do not consider.
An example of this can be seen with this seedling out of 'Dark Passion' and 'Galactic Warrior.' The first picture is the first year out of a nursery bed,which has extra nutrients, some shade and is constantly weeded, and placed in a new garden bed with compost and a mixture of sand and clay. Every year this bed gets weeded once, maybe twice, if I can get to it, fertilized and lime placed in the Spring. Also, treated for iris borers and slugs, then sprayed with an anti-fungal.
Picture 1: This is 06DPgw01 a tall bearded seedling at its fourth bloom season after move to a new bed.
The seedlings are allowed to grow and bloom for three years after they are placed in a garden to allow them to mature, which gives me time to measure and evaluate them. This seedling, of the seven in this group had the most dramatic changes, and the rhizome and the bed aged. Not only did the ruffling increase the color change, for the seedling was dramatic when compared with the first photo taken of it. While this seedling's strengths have increased in that this photo was taken after a nasty storm, many would still have been upset thinking they were getting a purple iris and a near black iris bloomed for them.
Picture 2: This is 06DPgw01 a tall bearded seedling at its fourth bloom season after move to new bed.
The Internet is filled with photographs of irises with names attached to them that we know could not possibly be correct, but might in fact be correct. Depending on soil pH, nutrients and other factor “Dusky Challenger’ can go from what we all know it as a rick dark iris to one that is mauve in coloration.(2) If this happens to you, don’t get mad. Check your soil, compare your conditions to others that have the same flower that is blooming correctly. Better yet, give it some time to settle in. There are many irises that are not produced in your area, and that take time to acclimatize to your conditions. For now, enjoy the blooms and see what happens in the future.