Monday, June 10, 2013

Freely Blooming Irises, Spring '13

By Bryce Williamson

Iris gardeners like to talk about two things—irises and the weather, but this year the weather came first. In Northern California, our rainy season started normally, with promise, and December was very wet with localized flooding. Then Tlaloc turned off the faucet and we went dry. I did water, realizing that plants need to be hydrated, but the amount of frost damage to flowers this spring suggests that I did not get enough water on them during the critical time they were forming buds.

Two weeks of high winds followed by two weeks of heat into the 80's and then mid 90's at the peak of bloom season came next- but I can't complain.  Late frosts happened all across the US and Europe, and I  have seen pictures of irises in bloom that were covered with snow!

In a year like this, it is hard not to focus on the negative, but I decided to write about those irises that bloomed freely despite the weather. If a variety only bloomed on one of four plants, even if it was glamorous, that variety did not make this list.  

"Augustine" (Schick '05). This salmon-colored pink grows and blooms so well. I like the laced edges and the long bloom season it provided this year.  It blooms so heavily that I have some concerns that it might bloom out in warmer climate areas.
"Absolute Treasure" (Tasco '06). Tall stalks hold up large ruffled flowers of a smooth tint of light blue without any violet in the coloring. I've seen it blooming on newly reset plants and 2 and 3 year clumps and it always looks the same. Tall stalks are not necessarily a good thing, however, in our windy spring, but this one stood up without problems. Wonderful blues are one of the great reasons to grow bearded irises.
"Adriatic Waves" (Keppel '09).  This was my favorite iris when touring gardens two years ago and it continues to impress me.  A very large flower with deep ruffling on the falls and so much ruffling in the standards that they appear to be froth.  In a season when many varieties bloomed short and with poor branching, this one was as good as it gets.
"All About Spring" (Kerr '06). So well named with Easter colors, and very different. The only question about this one seems to be whether or not it will grow and bloom in colder climates.

"Beauty Becomes Her" (Black '10). Yellow is such an important color in the garden and this ruffled iris brings a spot of sunshine into the yard even with overcast or rain.

"Big Bang Theory"  (Jedlicka '09).  I have mixed emotions about the Space Age irises--they tend to be erratic in the formation of horns, spoons, and flounces, but I also understand their great appeal to the general gardening public.  This one is fun since the flounces are so huge that they end in pom-poms.  The pom-poms, however, can get caught up when opening in the standards.

"Catch A Star" (Schreiner '10). A very wide and laced flower with red beards. White is so valuable in the garden since it goes with everything and provides a light spot of color even on gloomy days.

"Cheshire Smile" (Filari '10).  This one has taken two years to settle down here and to bloom, but it is very distinctive—basically a pink bitone with cream pink standards flushed deeper pink and medium orchid-pink falls. Now the next goal is to get it to bloom on a taller stalk.

"Haute Couture" (Gatty '95). This did not get as much attention as some of the other Gatty pinks of the time, but I always thought that the way the ruffling on the falls extends deep into the petals was a hint of a different and attractive direction in form. It has been a useful parent for other hybridizers.

"Magherlain" (Richardson '09). As far as I am concerned, just about as perfect a flower as there can be—wide, touching hafts and flowers that hold up well in inclement weather. Lest we forget, these wonderful blue-violet colors are found in few other plants.

"Milan" (T. Johnson '07). I would quibble over the name not fitting the iris, but I really like the form on this variety; well enough to acquire it for my own garden this year.

"Mountain Sunrise" (M. Sutton '07).  It took me two years to find plants of this variety to add to the yard.  I saw it growing and blooming in several different gardens and had to have it.  It is a child of the much underrated Schreiner's iris 'Seakist'.   'Mountain Sunrise' is one of the sources of the fascinating patterns Mike Sutton is getting in his seedlings.  It can rebloom, though I am not holding my breath for that to happen in this garden.
"Mother Marshmallow" (McWhirter '97). I'm a great believer in the value of white in the garden—white works with all colors and it brings a spot of purity to the landscape. This is a ruffled, pure white even to the beards and it did not get a lot of attention when it was introduced. Still as good as it gets and I keep good, solid, well performing varieties until I can find something much better to replace them.
"Ozark Rebounder" (Nicodemus '03). Two weeks of high winds in the early season resulted in lots of damage both in wind bruising and water spotting (I have to water overhead) with the dark and rich colors, but this variety blooms without blemishes. 'Ozark Rebounder' can rebloom, so that is the next goal to get it to rebloom here in this micro climate that doesn't seem especially conductive to reblooming irises.

"Red Skies" (Ghio '07). I really like the richness of this color, though it is not a traditional “red” iris as seen in the past, but much more a wine-burgundy affair. Like so many of the rich colors, it did not like overhead watering and it did not like the high winds, but once the weather settled down towards normal, the flowers were breathtaking.

Photo by Evan Underwood

 "Rosy Forecast" (Williamson '10). The colors can vary on this one and many times it is far pinker in the plicata markings than it was this year, but it was one of the first things to bloom in the spring and did not have frost damage. Four reset plants produced 14 increases even after each plant had two bloom stalks. It was covered in flowers from very early through midseason, providing 3 full weeks of bloom, and that, in my opinion, makes for a good garden iris.

"Silk Run" (Blyth '04).  When it started to bloom this year and had frost damage, 'Silk Run' went on my list of irises to not replant, but then it continued to bloom and bloom.  If anything, it might bloom too well for a really mild climate, but great performance after a weak start has earned it a spot in the garden next year.

"Spice Trader" (J. Painter '10).  Brown seems to have fallen out of favor as a color right now, but there is everything to favor in this bright golden brown blend that bloomed long and well in the early garden.  It provides a bright spot of color and grows with ease.

Although these varieties are not the newest on the market, they have the wonderful advantage that they can be found for less than $10.00 per plant.  Considering the delightful color that they will provide in the spring garden, that is a bargain.  Which irises were the most freely blooming in your garden this year despite weather challenges?


    No comments:

    Post a Comment

    Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...