Anyone that has collected even a few irises has probably run across this problem. The iris you carefully selected from that catalog so long ago and ordered and planted and waited to see blooming finally opens and it is not the variety you had expected to see. It is an age old problem - we can read about it in the old iris literature as well as today's latest iris publications.
Getting an incorrect rhizome is very common no matter how careful we are in handling during division, but there are a few precautions we can take before we send our extras out to other gardens, whether you are a commercial grower or just sharing with friends.
Tag Bloom-stalks - When I notice during bloom season that two clumps ready for division are growing very close and may be confused later on I'll tag the bloom stalks with the name so I have a better idea of which is which later on.
One At A Time - I always try to dig only a single variety at a time, and make sure all fans have a name written on them with a permanent marker before I move to the next clump.
Careful Digging - Watch for small pieces left behind when digging. These can often go unnoticed and come up in the midst of any variety replanted in that spot.
Verify Your ID - Always verify the identity of your irises while they are blooming by checking them against the official registration descriptions. This is most important when dealing with historics as so many imposters are passed around.
While it is irritating when an imposter shows up, we should remember that it could be for a myriad of reasons and it can happen to anyone. Most growers and collectors want to know when their stock may be incorrect, so be sure to let your source know. Also let anyone know who may have gotten an incorrect iris from you. This spring, I had to notify a couple of people to watch their starts of Flutter-By as a few rhizomes of G.P. Baker were in my clump and may have been sent to them under the wrong name. I'll be sending replacements to those who need them.
On the brighter side, we sometimes end up with a beautiful surprise and a great new addition to the garden. My few rhizomes of Mad Maid opened for their maiden bloom this spring and were instead flowers of the richest dark chocolate brown. While I don't have a name for it yet it is a very welcome addition to the garden and one I am going to enjoy for many years to come.
So while dividing your rhizomes this summer do what you can to make sure your fans are correctly marked. In the future be understanding when the wrong iris shows up in your flowerbed, remember that it's a problem we all share, and enjoy the unexpected whenever possible.