Monday, May 20, 2013

"Talking Irises" TALL BEARDED IRIS FROM THE '70s AND '80s

By Susanne Holland Spicker
One of the first recollections I have as a child are those of my Grandma Holland's flower beds.  She was a lover of flowers of all kinds, but had a special fondness for Tall Bearded Irises; I've inherited that passion. I spent many hours as a child watching her lovingly care for her prized hybrids. Now, years later, the scent of fragrant iris blooms in the spring takes me back to special memories. Their stately stalks, bearing colorful blooms of the rainbow, are a source of almost giddy happiness. Today there are so many new, beautiful seedlings from talented hybridizers, but I will always love many of the older varieties from the '70s and '80s--the ones from my grandma's garden. Their beauty, vigor, and proven reliability, along with good growth habits and form, make them  timeless in my eyes.
"LACE JABOT" (Gaulter 1982). This award-winning (HM 1985) lavender self, flushed blue-white in the center of the falls, is still a standout in the garden.  The well-branched stalks show off the large, lacy blooms early in the season here.  It is a long-lived bloom in arrangements.

Another favorite from Grandma's garden is "DATE BAIT" (Meek 1985).  A few of the things I love most about this lovely tall plicata is how it glows in the sun, as well as its lovely aroma and prolific growth habits.  It is always one of the first to bloom in my garden.
An iris that always gets noticed and is a favorite of visitors in the garden is "RINGO" (Shoop 1979).  This iris photographs especially well, and blends with several perennials, making it a most desirable iris to put in your landscape.  The contrasting white rim on the grape falls with the bright red beard is especially nice.
Grandma had lots of plicatas, and one I remember most is "BEYOND" (Gibson 1979).  The deep apricot-brown standards, and  ruffled and fluted falls of a white ground stitched deep apricot, with bright orange beards is one I haven't seen in many gardens, but her large clump was something to behold!  An arrangement of "BEYOND" is stunning.
Grandma loved pink irises.  There were many pink Tall Bearded Irises in her garden--that's probably one of the reasons why pinks are so attractive to me. Two that have proven to be reliable and hardy in Northern Utah over the years are "PINK ANGEL" (Rudolph 1973) and "PINK SWAN" (Gibson 1984).  I like the long, flowing falls, nice branching and ramrod stalks on "PINK ANGEL."  It also makes an impressive clump.  The blue-pink color of "PINK SWAN" with its unique red beards sets it apart from other pinks, making it an all-time favorite of mine.  I like companion plants of dark blue lupine and delphinium to compliment the hint of blue on its standards. 

Plicatas were another popular iris in Grandma's garden, and "THEATER" (Keppel 1986) has established itself as a personal favorite for its excellent growth habits  here in the top of Utah. It's light violet standards, and rounded pristine white  falls, overlaid  with dotted  darker plicata markings make an excellent choice for a place you want  to make an exclamation in the garden. 
The last three I'm going to mention are award-winning "SWEET MUSETTE" (Schreiner 1986), "EVER AFTER" (Keppel 1986),  and 40" bright orchid "ELISA RENEE" (L. Gaulter 1983).  These beautiful colored blooms are favorites not only for their dependability and beauty, but fuschia-rose colored "EVER AFTER" has a sweet fragrance as well.  

There are hundreds of wonderful irises from the '70s and '80s; these are just a few of my favorites. My grandma and her straight rows of beautiful Tall Bearded Irises are long gone, but as I work in the iris beds, or revel in a newly bloomed flower, thoughts of her and recollections of years gone by bring me joy  and pleasant memories.

What are your favorite 'tried-and-tested' Tall Bearded Irises from the '70s and '80s?  What special memories do irises invoke from your childhood?  


  1. Thank you Suzanne! Renee's description of 'jaw-dropping' photos did not dissapoint! Great article and beautiful irises!!
    Naomi &:-)

  2. Thank you, Naomi, I appreciate your kind words It was hard to pick 10 favorites. I might have to do a part II, there are so many I love from those years.


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