By Ron Killingsworth
One of the most striking things about Louisiana (LA) irises is the diversity of flower form and size. And although some iris species are divided into different height or size categories, LA irises are not. They can be as short as 1-2 feet tall all the way up to over 6 feet tall. Furthermore, LA irises are generally divided into nine different flower forms. Some fall into more than one category, however. For example, the flower forms "fully overlapping" and "ruffled" can often be combined to describe some of the more recent and spectacular hybrid LA irises. So let us take a look at some of the LA iris forms.
This is the "upright standards" form, which is quite descriptive. In this form the standards (the smaller three petals) stand up while the falls (the larger three petals) fall down. Perhaps this is where the terms "standards" and "falls" originated. Here are some pictures of irises that "fall" into this flower form:
|'Barbara Elaine Taylor' (Taylor, JC 1954)|
|'Cassiopee' (Anfosso, L 1988)|
|'Chuck Begnaud' (Haymond, D 1999)|
|'Cocka The Walk' (Musacchia, J 2005)|
Another form that represents more and more of the recent hybrid LA irises is the "ruffled form". Most irises in the "ruffled form" also tend to fall into the "overlapping" form. Here are some examples of the "ruffled form".
|'Betty Ann' (Jackson, P 2008)|
|'Changing Shadows' (Norvell, Pat 2012)|
|'Mulberry Ripple' (Jackson, P 2008)|
|'Our Dorothy' (Pryor, B 1997)|
|'Simply Irresistible' (Pryor, H 1998)|
Another LA iris form is "recurved form". Irises with this form have falls that curve down giving a "rolled back" or recurved look. This form is relatively new and I could find only two good examples:
|'Elaine Bourque' (Haymond, D 2007)|
|'Leather Bound' (Jackson, P 2011)|
The "semi-flaring to flat" is described as irises having a slight upward arch to the standards but a slight downward arch to the falls. Here are some I think fall into this category:
|'Ann Weeks' (Weeks, J 2010)|
|'Exquisite Idea' (Pryor, H 2006)|
|'Word of Warning' (Pryor, H 2003)|
The "umbrella pendant" form is somewhat similar to the "recurved form" but in the umbrella form the falls and stands fall down very close to the bloom stem. Again, it was difficult to find good pictures of this form.
|'Mississippi Eavesdropper' (Jackson, P 2011)|
|'Ruth Sloan' (Sloan, Richard 1984)|
|'Lottie Butterscotch' (Sheppard, S 2007)|
The "semi-double form" is often called the "cartwheel form" and represents a bloom that generally has all falls and no standards. There is a difference between "double form" and "cartwheel form" but the difference goes beyond the scope of this article. There are very few LA irises like this, and a number of hybridizers are developing irises of this form.
|'Delta Star' (Grainger, M 1966)|
|'Double Encore' (Granger, M by Weeks, J 2010)|
|'Starlite Starbrite' (Granger, M 1985)|
|'Flareout' (Granger, M 1988)|
The "overlapping form" is by far the most common in modern LA iris hybrids. In this form the standards are quite large and the standards lie flat against the falls forming a dinner plate effect.
Here are some beautiful examples of the "overlapping form".
|'Edna Claunch' (Wolford, Harry 2004)|
|'Endearing Thought' (Pryor, H 2004|
|'Nancy Tichborne' (Pryor, B 2010)|
|'Duck Lady' (O'Connor, Pat 2009)|
The "open form" is without a doubt the most common form of the species LA irises and of the early hybridizing attempts. It represents a form still cherished by LA iris lovers and flowers with this form still win major awards in bench judging. In the "open form" the standards are usually small and the falls tend to be much smaller than in recent hybrids. This gives a lot of space between the petals and thereby the "open" form.
|'Barataria Bay' (Davis, C 1959)|
|'Royal Sparkle' (Rowlan, H 1985)|
|'Tarnished Brass' (Chowning, Frank 1961)|
|'Violet Ray' (Dormon, Caroline 1949)|
The Society for Louisiana Irises does not officially recognize the following flower form but I think it should be added, since more and more LA irises are like this: the "overlapping and ruffled" form. Here are some irises I think would fit into this category.
|'Birthday Suit' (O'Connor, Patrick 2010)|
|'English Turn' (O'Connor, Patrick 2012)|
|'Lime and Soda' (Jackson, P 2010)|
|'Nottoway' (O'Connor, Patrick 2005)|
The real beauty of LA irises is their diversity of shapes and sizes. The size of the iris with a bloom stalk can range from a couple of feet to over six feet, and the size of the blooms can range from a couple of inches to over eight inches across! Surely you can find a bloom you like. Which form is your favorite, and do you grow it in your own garden?