Monday, July 10, 2017

Exceptional Performers in a Lousy Bloom Season

By Phil Williams

When one has grown Tall Bearded irises for 55 years and been an AIS member for 51 years, you see lots of improvements in the iris perennial, many disappointments, and far too many steps backward.

The iris should be a hardy, easily grown perennial plant.  Clearly many of the modern hybrids do not qualify. It is the result of a love affair with the flower and the perennial has suffered by too many irises with gorgeous flowers introduced with low bud count.  Most of today's modern hybrids are produced in mild climates leaving those of us in parts of the country with challenging growing conditions scratching our heads!

The judges’ handbook requires a minimum bud count of 7 buds per stalk in order to be seriously considered for any garden award.  The mention of bud count, reminds me that the sequence of those 7 buds opening into blossoms can result in a clump easily remaining in bloom for a full month.  There are introductions who promise up to 12 buds per stalk which could extend the bloom season ensuing for 5-6 weeks.

Grab A Grape--Image by Steve Kelly

That is made possible by growing a variety that opens only ONE BLOSSOM at a time on the stalk.  I have long ago ceased seeking varieties with multiple open blooms on a stalk.  My devotion is to a quality garden plant with 2-4 increases per year. I prefer stalks with high bud count and wide durable flowers with holding power (remaining open at least 3 days) that can remain upright during our beating rainstorms and strong winds.

This listing includes varieties with a maximum of 2 open blossoms at once.   My devotion to a quality garden plant with 2-4 increases per years also reflected in this list. (I do not enjoy dividing plants every 2 years that increase like a weed and I refuse to donate and share those plants with others at our auctions and plant sales!) Every plant on this list has been grown for a minimum of 2 years and survived the worst disease attack to ever strike here, fueled by late spring rains that blew northward from the marshes of Louisiana!

Two final last comments.  I try to avoid all irises that boast of an early bloom season.  Rare is the spring that our rows are not hit by early frost and freeze damage. Interesting that some varieties introduced as early consistently perform here in mid-season.  Go figure. No testing here for rebloom reliability.

Grab A Grape--Image by Steve Kelly

'Grab A Grape' (Steve Kelly  2017) Sdlg. PBD 09-2. TB, 36" (91 cm), M
Standards dark violet; style arms violet; Falls dark violet, orange tint on hafts; beards bright orange; slight fragrance. Paul Black X Decadence. 

Serene Lady--Image by Don MacKendrick

'Serene Lady' (Don MacKendrick 2017) Sdlg. 12-09. TB, 28" (71 cm), E-M
S. light heliotrope (HCC 636/3); style arms same, tinted tangerine at edges; F. same, hafts tinted tangerine; beards tangerine; ruffled; purple based foliage; slight sweet fragrance. 06-01: (04-01: (Wishful Thinking x unknown) x Lavender Park) X 07-02: (06-01: (04-01 x Lavender Park) x Feature Attraction). 

Chaps--Image by Nancy Price

'Chaps' (Nancy Price, 2016) Sdlg. 07-117F. BB, 28" (71 cm), M
S. and style arms yellow-tan; F. yellow-tan, darker ½˝ rim of tan; beards tan. Game Plan X Severn Side.

Edna Carmean--Image by Wild Iris Rows

'Edna Carmean' (Greg Hester, R. 2017) Sdlg. 10B4-1. TB, 36" (91 cm), M
S. light lavender-blue; style arms light lavender-blue and blue-violet; F. medium blue-violet, white wash around beards; beards white in throat, orange in middle, lavender end; ruffled; slight sweet fragrance. Jazz Band X Dance Recital. 

Caramel & Chocolate--Image by Rick Tasco

'Caramel & X Chocolate' (John Painter, 2015) Sdlg. J10-63A. TB, 42" (107 cm), M
S. lemon overlaid with brown veins and outer edge; style arms lemon, heavily veined and lined brown; F. black-burgundy-brown; beards antique gold. Rum and Coke X Latte.

Lemon Jade--Image by Rick Tasco

'Lemon Jade' (John Painter,  2015) Sdlg. J07-46A. TB, 38" (97 cm), M.
S. and style arms lemon-green; F. same, shoulders deeper; beards gold. L05-96: (J03-222A: (Honky Tonk Blues x unknown) x Richards 10201) X J04-6A: (Green and Gifted x Coffee Malt). 

Waves of Joy--Image by Rick Tasco

'Waves of Joy' (Richard Tasco,  2015) Sdlg. 09-TB-02-04. TB, 39" (99 cm), ML
S. naples yellow (RHS 11C), slight violet veins on midrib; style arms cream-white, naples yellow edges, violet ridge; F. violet (86B), naples yellow rim, light bronze shoulders and veins near upper portion of beard; beard hairs based white, golden indian yellow (17A) tips, minor violet tipped hairs at very end; moderately ruffled; light purple based foliage; pronounced sweet fragrance. Kona Waves X 05-TB-27-31: (Antiquity x 00-TB-05-01: (Can Can Dancer x Three Strikes)).

Gilded Girl--Image by Nancy Price

'Gilded Girl' (Nancy Price, 2014) Sdlg. 10-49-B. TB, 36" (91 cm), M
S. white, gold rim; style arms yellow-gold; F. white, gold-yellow overlay; beards yellow-gold; ruffled. Celestial Explosion X Dream Team.

Carpe Diem--Image by Mike Sutton

'Carpe Diem' (George Sutton 2012) TB, 36" (91 cm), M-L.
S. and style arms sulphur yellow; F. sulphur yellow, white area radiating out from beards; beards sulphur yellow with fuzzy yellow horns; bubble ruffled; slight sweet fragrance. Bride’s Blush X Q616: (Dark Passion x Midnight Thunder).

Point to the Sun--Image by Mike Sutton

'Point to the Sun' (George Sutton, 2013) Sdlg. U-1557. TB, 36" (91 cm), M-L.
S. white, pale mimosa-yellow flush at midribs and veins; style arms mimosa; F. white; beards yellow in throat, white at ends, palest lavender horns; slight spicy fragrance; ruffled. R-384: (Wishful Thinking x Eagle Landing) X Wedding in White.

Subtle Beauty--Image by Rick Tasco

'Subtle Beauty' (Richard Tasco,  2011) Sdlg. 05-TB-20-14. TB, 40" (102 cm), M
S. light chartreuse-cream veined slightly darker, red violet at base extending half way up midrib; style ams light chartreuse-cream, red violet flush along midrib and on fringed crest, blue under style arm; F. violet (RHS 87A), slightly lighter around beards and toward edge; beards white base, hairs tipped burnt amber-gold; moderately ruffled; slight fragrance. Haut les Voiles X Louisa’s Song.

Adventurous--Image by Mike Sutton

'Adventurous' (Michael Sutton, 2010) Sdlg. V-334-A. TB, 35" (89 cm), ML
S. barium yellow, slightly veined white; style arms barium yellow; F. violet blue veined light blue, ¾˝ ruby red band; beards barium yellow, violet blue at end; serrated edges; slight sweet fragrance. Soft Side X T-714-A: (R-3911: (Seakist x Snowed In) x Spot On).

Secret Land--Image by Kaska Cholewa
'Secret Land' (Robert PiÄ…tek,  2017) Sdlg. 10-118-D-RP. TB, 36" (91 cm), M
S. salmon, wide light orange rim; style arms lilac-blue and yellow; F. dark violet with darker rim, lighter streaks in middle, lilac veins around beards on white background; beards intense orange; ruffled; pronounced sweet fragrance. Naples X unknown. 

Cold Fusion--Image by Mike Sutton

'Cold Fusion' (Michael Sutton, 2011) Sdlg. U-308-A. TB, 34" (86 cm), ML & RE
S. white, heavily veined yellow, yellow midribs; style arms white, yellow crests; F. white zonal burst veined yellow becoming violet blue which bleeds into midnight blue, pale red-purple rim, dark purple wire edge; beards yellow; ruffled; slight sweet fragrance. S-481: (Connie Sue x Ghio 98-3F, Applause Line pollen parent) X Mountain Sunrise.

Day on the Bay--Image by Larry Lauer

'Day on the Bay' (Joseph Ghio, 2012) Sdlg. 05-19N4. TB, 30" (76 cm), VE-M
S. creamy lemon yellow; F. white, wide violet band that bleeds toward center; beards gold. Center Ice sib.

Rocky Brook Lady--Image by Kent Pfeiffer

'Rocky Brook Lady' (Chun Fan, 2013) Sdlg. F91-728. TB, 38" (97 cm), EM
S. and style arms pale yellow-cream; F. same, deeper in heart and shoulders; beards orange in throat, yellow in middle, pale blue at end; ruffled, lightly laced; slight musky fragrance. Melted Butter X Summer Gown. Fan’s Iris 2013.

Platinum Jubilee--Image by Rick Tasco

'Platinum Jubilee'  Joseph Ghio,  2013) Sdlg. 07-95C. TB, 36" (91 cm), VE-E & RE
S. blue-violet, more pink at base; F. same, pinker toward heart; beards tangerine. Restless Heart X Treasured. Bay View 2013.

Moonlit Mirage--Image by Evan Underwood

'Moonlit Mirage' (Barbara Nicodemus,  2013) Sdlg. D21-02. TB, 30" (76 cm), M-L
S. grey-white or whiter, fine gold edge; style crests same, style arms touched wine-purple grey-white; F. wine purple, few grey-white striations; beards gold in throat and middle, ends wine purple; lightly ruffled. Ozark Rebounder X Chantell’s Lace. Rockytop Gardens 2013.

Scandinavian Gal--Image by Rick Tasco

'Scandinavian Gal' (Thomas Johnson,  2012) Sdlg. TB129B. TB, 37" (94 cm), EM
S. brassy yellow with green tones; style arms brassy yellow; F. brassy yellow, lighter white flash, slight violet flash around beard; beards bright yellow-orange; slight fragrance. Blyth O139-B: (Wintry Sky x Mango Daiquiri sib) X Audacious Amber.

Angler Fish--Image by Dale Austin

'Angler Fish' (Gerald Richardson, R. 2013) Sdlg. 04-14-02. TB, 33" (84 cm), M 
S. and style arms pale lavender; F. light buff, stippled violet; beards light orange, upward pointing violet horns; slight fragrance. Sunset Storm X Thornbird.

Flirtatious Gal--Image by Barbara Nicodemus

'Flirtatious Gal' (Barbara Nicodemus,  2016) Sdlg. N55A. TB, 35" (89 cm), EM-M-L
S. gold-peach lightening around lower midrib; style arms light peach, peach crests, white at stigma; F. white, edged peach, deeper gold-peach on outer shoulders; beards white base, orange in throat, yellow-gold in middle, white end. Fogbound X Barbara My Love.


  1. Moonlit Mirage reminds me of Slovak Prince--which is a champion in my garden.

  2. phil, great post. you make some very valid points. randy/ga

  3. What you're saying is completely true. I know that everybody must say the same thing, but I just think that you put it in a way that everyone can understand. I'm sure you'll reach so many people with what you've got to say.


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