Today, I thought I would write about Iris pumila itself. Besides being an extraordinary find for iris hybridizers, it is a delightfully varied species that makes a wonderful garden plant. It is invariably the first bearded iris to bloom in the spring, starting several weeks before most of the hybrid dwarf cultivars.
Iris pumila is among the tiniest of bearded irises, with the tip of the blooms only about 10 cm from the ground. Usually, the stem is so short as to be hardly detectable; the blooms are held aloft on an elongated perianth tube, so that each bloom seems to be just sitting atop the rhizome from which it grows.
The species shows a phenomenal range of color. To judge from pictures I have seen on the internet, Ukraine seems to be the center of its diversity, with many extraordinary color combinations seldom seen in plants that have been imported to the US or western Europe.
The basic color may be blue, purple, yellow, or white, in any shade from pale to intensely saturated. There is almost always a darker "spot pattern" on the falls, which may be small or may cover virtually the entire petal. The spot may be solid color, or appear as rays or veins or an uneven wash of color.
There are also named cultivars of Iris pumila available from specialty iris growers. Many of these are registered as miniature dwarf bearded (MDB), since they meet the definition of the class. More recently, some have been registered as species (SPEC). One very popular Iris pumila cultivar is 'Little Drummer Boy' (Willott, 1997), which won the Caparne-Welch Medal for best MDB in 2005.
|'Little Drummer Boy' (Willott, 1997)|
|'Keystone Oracle' (Jesberger, 2011)|
|'Hobbit' (Miller, 2004)|
|'Royal Wonder' (Coleman, 2013)|