Monday, September 12, 2016


Susanne Holland Spicker

Elegant and carefree, tall bearded irises have proven to be a satisfying and rewarding gardening experience for me in zone 6. By the time September rolls around, the flowers have long since faded, and the stems cut to the ground. However, the memory of last spring's bloom lingers... 
 (front to back) 'GLOBAL CROSSING'  (Van Liere '12), 'EMBRACE ME' (Van Liere '08),
'PRETTY GENEROUS' Innerst '04), 'FLIRTINI' ( Sutton '12),

 'SISTERHOOD' (Van Liere '11) This bed always does well.
They love where they're planted--just the right amount of sunshine and moisture
Pictured here are just a few of my season favorites. Some are relatively newer cultivars, while others are older classics that have performed well over the years. 
'GLAMAZON'  Blyth '07   Beautiful in every way!
 July and August are busy months in Zone 6 in the iris beds: dividing existing clumps, planting new rhizomes, relocating others and revamping beds with companion plants. I always take time to evaluate the successes or failures of the previous bloom season, and try to improve the beds. There have been several times I was ready to call it quits with an iris, thinking, despite my best efforts, it just wouldn't grow in my zone. But after transplanting it to another area in the garden, it wound up thriving. Although this isn't the case every time, more often than not, it is. 'GLAMAZON' (Blyth '07) is one example--it is now thriving after moving it. In its second year, several stems with huge blooms rewarded my patience--I'm so glad I didn't give up on it.

Another example is 'EDITH WOLFORD' (Hager '86). It has been reliable and prolific for several years now after having marginal success with it in a prior bed. It never disappoints, blooming consecutively now for over 10 years. My advice to the beginning iris gardener is to always try another location before removing it for good.

'EDITH WOLFORD' Hager '86    A Dykes Medalist and reliable, older variety

'ENGAGEMENT RING' (Ghio '11)    Every bloom is perfect!

Another season favorite was 'ENGAGEMENT RING' (Ghio '11). This exciting bi-tone has excellent form, with clear, soft yellow standards and pure white falls rimmed in fuschia-orchid. The bushy bright gold beards against the stark white falls make it a stand out in the garden. It was not only a personal favorite, but visitors to the gardens voted it their favorite.

'DARKSIDE' (Schreiner '85)    Outstanding black!
An older black, but one that performs well consistently is 'DARKSIDE' (Schreiner '85). Although I have several other blacks, this is still one of my favorites in this color class. It's hardiness and reliability, even in an off year where other irises struggle because of weather-related problems make it a must-have in my garden.

Other 2016 season favorites include:

'PURPLE SERENADE' (Schreiner '05)  Mulberry-claret beauty
'LEMON CLOUD' (Painter '08)   Beautiful form and longevity of bloom
Amoena 'MILES AHEAD' (Schreiner '10) 
'FLIRTINI' (Sutton '12)   Wonderful combination of color and form! I love the yellow turned-to-blue beards on this light melon and white beauty
'EYE FOR STYLE' (Blythe '06)  Magnificent!
'HIGH BLUE SKY' (Ernst '98)  I love the soft blue of this iris with darker veining on the falls
'ABOUT TOWN' (Blyth '97) A clump of this iris is glorious!
'ROSY FORECAST' (Williamson '10) Beautiful combination of colors on this pink plicata
'KATHY CHILTON' (Kerr '06)   Dramatic!
(Left) 'PROUD TRADITION' (Schreiner '90), an older, reliable variety and 'BY DAWN'S EARLY LIGHT' (Van Liere '13), the first year bloom on this beautiful blue.--I love these iris with the bluebells and bright two-toned cherry lupine
'ROMANTIC GENTLEMAN' (Blyth '02)   Stunning!
'JESSE'S SONG' (Williamson '83)  Reliable and hardy--among the first to bloom
'EPICENTER' (Ghio '94) Excellent form on this dramatic plicata
'QUANTUM LEAP' (Sutton '05) I was very pleased with this first year bloom.
 It was a gift from an iris friend--Thanks, Lori L.
'EMBRACE ME' (Van Liere '08)  An all-time favorite pink--gorgeous with fast increase
'FLAMINGO FRENZY' (Johnson '12) I love the dusky beard and blue-pink color on this laced and ruffled iris
'DEEP CURRENTS' (Johnson '09 ) I love the deep color on this stunning flower
'TENNESSEE GENTLEMAN' (Innerst '91)  First-year bloom - a pleasant surprise!
'TENNESSEE GENTLEMAN' (Innerst '91)  The standards are especially beautiful

I could post several more season favorites, but time and space won't allow. I hope some of these favorites inspire you to add to your iris gardens, or have brightened your day a little. 

If you had a favorite in your garden this year, I'd love to hear from you. What makes it a favorite? 


  1. Beautiful, wonderful photography, thank you for sharing!!!

  2. All beautiful! I love that Tennessee Gentleman. Very cool! :-)

    1. Thank you, Aprile! Yes, Tennessee Gentleman was a very pleasant surprise--this was it's first year bloom and I couldn't have been more pleased with it. I have a bed with several complimentary irises and companion plants and it fits in perfectly! I'm interested to see how it does next year.

  3. Replies
    1. Thank you, Alyce. These hybridizers certainly have given us some real beauties!

  4. I definitely need a a Jesses song. My mom purchased a Louisa's Song from Schreiner's for my birthday. My middle name is Luisa and my son's name is Jesse. I love purple iris and this is definitely a must for next year.I love to read your post's. I've grown up with iris but want to learn the hybridizing part.Do you have any advice on articles or books that would help.I prefer hands on learning but like I said before.Utah county has nothing. It is my biggest passion and would love any information. Thanks so much!

    1. Thanks again, Alyce, for such a fun comment. I would love to share Jessie's Song with you this year after they bloom. I love Louisa's Song and am glad you have it. As far as hybridizing goes, I have never done it. It requires more room than what I have, and so I just have never been interested in it. But, there are many articles and books you could read. I have seen it done before, and I have also saved pollen from various cultivars where the hybridizer was going to use it as a cross with something they had. I know the process and would love to share what information I have on it with you. Maybe we could meet up this year so I could give you the rhizome and fill you in on hybridizing.


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