Monday, December 17, 2012

Favorite REDS for the holidays!

By Renee Fraser

Red is my favorite garden color, and irises are my favorite flowers.  I am smitten with the combination red, green and white, and some day I imagine my entire garden will be these colors.  So I am always on the lookout for new attempts to make red irises.

The pigments that give irises their colors are purple and yellow-gold, so creating red irises poses a challenge.  The New York Times featured this problem in an article (here) on the work being done by hybridizers like the late Richard Ernst in conjunction with Oregon State University to create red irises.

Brick reds, pinkish reds and burgundy/maroons have been mastered by iris hybridizers, even if true scarlet-reds are still down the road.

This photograph, posted last year by Rita on Gardenweb, caused me to go over my self-imposed budget on a single iris rhizome.  Rita gardens on Long Island, focusing on daylilies, roses, and irises.

'Rio Rojo' Photo by Rita 

Red irises are fantastic garden plants- they coordinate perfectly with the red colors of foliage plants.  Brenda Fox also gardens in New York.  She planted an entire bed in reds.  Here is 'Samurai Warrior' in her garden with red barberry.

'Samurai Warrior' Photo by Brenda Fox

Susanne Spicker also gardens with coordinating colors.  Here is one of her favorite reds:

'Play With Fire' Susanne Spicker

Red irises can stand by themselves in a landscape.  This charming garden was captured by Joel Schaber while he was vacationing in Oregon.

  NOID Photo by Joel Schaber

Red amoenas!   Amoenas are my favorite irises, and red is my favorite flower color.  'Ecstatic Echo' did not grow well for me, but it is still my very favorite iris.  The standards are a bit lavendar, and the falls a bit rusty, but it's getting close to a red amoena.

'Ecstatic Echo'
'Ecstatic Echo'

I often see 'Lady Friend' in lists of red irises.  What do you think, red, or dark pink?

'Lady Friend' with 'Frequent Flyer'

Here's 'Dynamite', which was named as a favorite red by numerous people on the Facebook forum Iris Lovers.

'Dynamite' Photo by Susanne Spicker

'Rip City' is an iris I grow in my garden for its landscape value.  It has a long bloom period and a rusty color that goes well with Japanese Blood Grass.

'Rip City'

Other tall bearded favorites listed by iris fans included 'Lest We Forget', a rebloomer, 'Cardinal Rule', 'House Afire', 'Red Skies', 'Smoky Shadows', 'Nebraska Big Red', 'Battle Royale', 'Classic Bordeaux', 'Rogue', and 'Trial By Fire'.

Favorite median irises included the Standard Dwarf Bearded iris 'Exotic Eyes'.

'Exotic Eyes' Joel Schaber

'Redrock Princess' just came in as the first runner up for the Williamson-White Medal for MTB irises.  It is among the favorites of Joel Schaber in his Idaho garden.

'Redrock Princess' Photo by Joel Schaber

Sandra Eggertson, who owns Merlebleu, an iris display garden in Canada, chose Intermediate Bearded Iris 'Red Zinger' as one of her favorites.

'Red Zinger' Photo by Sandra Eggertson

LAs have slightly different chemistry than the bearded irises, so there are some very RED Louisiana irises.  Look at the blazing red color of my favorite, 'Red Echo.'

'Red Echo' Photo by Margie Valenzuela

Here is a lovely shot of of a species iris.

Iris nelsonii

Iris fulva can look very red indeed., or it can appear to be more red-orange.

Iris fulva  Photo by Rodney Barton

Iris fulva  Photo by Rodney Barton

Some day hybridizers will create true red irises, but along the way, they have created many spectacular flowers that are excellent garden plants.

Do you grow red irises in your garden?  I am waiting for the perfect red amoena, and Lucy Burton, an avocational hybridizer, tells me she is working on it in Standard Dwarf Bearded irises.  What kind of a red iris would you like to see in the future?


  1. Beautiful! Thank you Renee.
    I like them all, but I fell in love with that fulva, nelsonii, Red Echo...

    1. Yes, the photo of the nelsonii took my breath away. A big thank you to Mississippi State for the photo.

  2. Red Irises are also my favorite and all my hybridizing work on SDB and TB is turn toward this objective.

    1. Jean-Luc, bonne chance! Thank you for your work.

  3. Awesome selection Renee. Love each one.


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