Monday, September 25, 2017

Prolific, Long-lasting Bloom from 'Sweeter Than Honey'

By Renee Fraser

Frankly, I don't remember how I acquired 'Sweeter Than Honey'.  It may have been a bonus iris, it may have been won at an auction, or perhaps it was a prize from the San Fernando Valley Iris Society.  In any case, it is not a color I would have chosen.  You see, I don't do pastels.  I am a fan of florescent salmon, shocking scarlet, bright orchid purple, and sunny yellow.  Pastels have a hard time standing up to such an onslaught.

Nevertheless, this pastel iris won my heart through its sheer excellence in the garden.  Not only is the flower itself huge and perfectly formed and ruffled, it puts on the best show of any iris I have ever grown. It not only blooms extravagantly, it blooms FOREVER.  In the last two years, this thing has started in January or February and it has bloomed non-stop until June.  In case you don't believe me, I have documented this phenomenon on Facebook.  You can look it up.

Here it is blooming early in the season, before the roses get going.

I first got it in 2012, and I have not yet divided it.  I thinned it a little this year by pulling off a few rhizomes from the edges and the middle of the clump, but it bloomed prolifically last season, and I don't want to jinx it!

Not only has it bloomed better than any other iris, it actually looks very pretty next to screaming florescent salmon-orange and dark pink roses.  Here it is still going strong at the peak of rose season.

When it is backlit, it outshines the brighter roses.  I have tried to get a photo of the effect, but I don't yet have the skills to capture it.

 'Sweeter Than Honey' was hybridized by Bob Van Liere and registered in 2011.  The description says it is 35" tall and blooms midseason, although mine blooms for almost half the year.  It won an Honorable Mention in 2015.

This iris has been a favorite of mine since 2013, when it started to outdo the other flowers in the garden.  If you are looking for an iris with a modern, ruffled form that performs, give 'Sweeter Than Honey' a shot.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Growing Louisiana Irises

 by Ron Killingsworth
Louisiana irises growing in Mooringsport, LA

Far too often I hear various Master Gardeners, and other flower lovers, say they just simply cannot grow Louisiana irises.  I even gave a talk, several years ago, on growing Louisiana irises to a group in Fort Worth, TX, who told me they cannot grow Louisiana irises.  That’s funny, because they grow lots of them in Dallas.

Louisiana irises growing where they were simply dropped on the ground
 My personal experience is that if you throw a Louisiana iris rhizome down on the ground, and it can reach dirt, it will grow right there.  Not long ago I removed all the irises from a raised bed to amend the soil and just piled the rhizomes on the ground next to the bed.  After amending the soil (with compost) I replanted the rhizomes.  Obviously I missed a few and left them on the ground outside the bed.  Later that fall, I took this picture of the irises growing right there where I had placed them in the grass next to the bed. They were growing as well as those I had carefully planted back into the raised bed!

'Fringed Gold' growing next to a pond
While it is true that Louisiana irises like to have a lot of water, fertilizer and sunlight, they will grow reasonably well with less water and at least 50% sunlight.  In really hot climates, I find that they do much better if they have afternoon shade in the heat of late afternoon.  The real beauty of Louisiana irises is that it is almost impossible to overfeed or over water them.  Yet they grow quite well with other plants.  If you do not give them enough water, food and sunlight, they will produce less bloom and less increase.  If you are not growing them for sale, but simply growing them for their beauty, then who cares if they have less than "garden judging" performance?

Massive planting of Louisiana irises
The above picture was taken in front of my house.  This area was once my vegetable garden and we planted about 6000 Louisiana irises there, temporarily, about eight years ago.  They were dug from Marie Caillet's famous pond in Little Elm, TX, and were mostly unidentified hybrid and registered Louisiana irises.  We were able to identify some of them and move them into beds; however, most of them remain as "surprise" irises who have lost their identify.  This soil was just common gardening soil, un-amended, and they receive very little care and are not often fertilized, yet they put on quite a show every year.  I hesitate to guess how many irises are in this huge planting.  It gives me quite a view from my front porch during bloom season.

Louisiana irises growing with poppies and other "wild flowers"
This picture shows Louisiana irises growing with poppies and "hardy glads".  And, admittedly, with a few weeds.  But, although they receive little maintenance and very little fertilizer, they continue to do quite well.

Louisiana irises growing with Tall Bearded irises
 We have a lot of trouble growing Tall Bearded irises in Louisiana because of the heavy spring rains and very hot summer temperatures.  Some of the old species TB's do quite well, while more modern hybrid TB's last about two years before they burn up in the hot sun or develop rhizome rot from too much water.

Louisiana irises and iris.virginica growing around a pond with Caddo Lake in the background
If you have a water feature, a pond, or a tank (Texas talk) you can grow Louisiana irises in the edge of the pond or around the pond.  A small pump installed in the pond can provide the water to keep them very happy.  Not all Louisianas do well growing directly in the water.

Louisiana irises growing with other plants
These Louisiana irises are growing with bushes and other flowering plants.  They receive very little sunlight other than direct noon sun and are seldom fertilized.  Yet they continue to produce at least two or three blooms per bloom stalk and to increase enough each year to bloom the next year.  This is not the ideal way to grow Louisiana irises commercially and for sale, but if you are growing them to simply enjoy them, then this method works well.

Louisiana irises growing with wild flowers
This is an area of the property we call the "deer meadow" and we plant wild flowers there each year.  The Louisianas in the background are in dug beds, lined with plastic, and are watered through an irrigation system that pumps water out of Caddo Lake.

Louisiana irises growing in pots
Many people chose to grow their Louisiana irises in pots.  This makes it a lot easier to keep the different cultivars separated.  Louisianas are know to "creep" and when planted in beds, will soon creep into the space of their neighbor unless you dig them and divide them every two to three years.  Pots also make it easier to control weeds.  These pots have holes in the bottoms but you can use pots without holes to help conserve water.  If you use pots without holes, I suggest you punch some drainage holes about three inches below the soil level to keep the water from standing above the soil.

Louisiana irises growing with Tall Bearded irises and other flowering plants
You certainly would not want to grow Louisiana irises in your cactus beds but they will grow with just about any other plant.  If you do not feed them and water them enough, they simply will not produce the "garden judging" required number of bud positions and bud count, nor the required increase each year.

Louisiana irises growing in dug beds, lined with heavy plastic
We grow irises commercially and using a backhoe dig beds about two to three feet deep and four feet wide by as long as the space allows.  We line the beds with plastic and fill the beds with amended soil.  Again they are watered from a pump in Caddo Lake.  This method works well in our area.

Raised beds are easy to make with landscape timbers.  Just line the bed with plastic and fill with good compost.
These Louisiana irises are happy with about 50% sunshine and grow well in this raised bed.  Of course, when you make it ideal for irises you also make it ideal for weeds!

Rhizome ready to plant
A rhizome ready to plant should have the foliage trimmed back and, if necessary, reduce the size of the rhizome.  Plant the rhizome about 1 1/2 to 2 inches below the top of the soil.  Keep it moist, not drowned, until the new growth starts to appear.

To learn more about the Society for Louisiana irises, click here.

To learn more about growing Louisiana irises, click here.

OK, class is out for the day.  Now let's just look at some of my favorite Louisiana irises.

'Boiled Crawfish' (Guidry, R 2016)

'Cajun Merry' (Dunn, M 1995)

'Cajun Sunrise' (Mertzweiller, J 1992)

'Cotton Plantation' (Dunn, M 1994)

'Easter Tide' (Arny, C 1979)

'Heavenly Glow' (Morgan, R 1988)

To learn more about the American Iris Society, click here.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Update on transplanted Iris hartwegii australis

By Kathleen Sayer

Last spring I moved one clump of Iris hartwegii australis (IRHA) to a well insulated planter and placed that planter under the eaves near a hose bib. My intention was to mimic montane thunderstorms in southern California during summer, and in winter to give IRHA some shelter from heavy rain, mimicking snow cover. 
Iris hartwegii australis in flower in its native habitat, the Transverse Ranges of southern California, photo courtesy Richard Richards. 

Richard Richards said this was the wrong time of year to move IRHA, that I should wait for fall. But his words came too late, I had already dug the clump and replanted it. Read about those details here: from May 2017.

I fully expected to see this plant wither in June and die. Which I would have then reported at some point. A few leaves did die back at the tips, and later browned off. You can see those brown leaves in the image below. 

However, the plant did not die. Instead, new leaf fans started growing in late spring. Then, a couple of weeks ago, several newer fans appeared: 

Recently transplanted Iris hartwegii australis, not yet dead, a new large dark green leaf fan on the left, and tiny newer fans around it. 

Closer in, see three young fans on the left shoot, and one on the right. 

So, this experiment in growing IRHA in a planter is still underway, and has not yet terminated in failure. This IRHA appears to be thriving in its new home!

I grow this plant in a medium sized rectangular styrofoam cooler covered with epoxy cement patch, but have been unhappy with the durability of the epoxy, so am now making hypertufa planters (perlite:coir:cement in 3:1:1 ratio). These should be more durable, and provide a well-aerated cool root-space for Pacifica Iris and other native species that prefer cool roots. Details to follow in a later post. 

Sunday, September 10, 2017


By Susanne Holland Spicker

Please join with us in congratulating Lynda Miller as The Fred and Barbara Walther Cup 2017 American Iris Society Award recipient, for 'MOOSE TRACKS' (MTB). This award is for the most Honorable Mention votes in any iris category. 

 'MOOSE TRACKS' (Lynda Miller 2015) Photo by Salmon Creek

This exciting miniature tall  bearded iris (MTB) is described in the AIS Wiki as follows:

'MOOSE TRACKS' (Lynda Miller 2015) MTB 18-20" Mid-season bloom. Standards medium gold, veined smokey plum; style arms gold, smokey plum accents; falls black veined over white becoming solid maroon-black at bottom of petal; beards dark gold. Salmon Creek 2015. Ben Hagar Cup 2015, Fred and Barbara Walther Cup 2017.

'MOOSE TRACKS' (Lynda Miller 2015) Photo by Salmon Creek

Thank you, Lynda, for this delightful little beauty!

For a complete list of all the American Iris SOciety's 2017 Awards, please visit

Interested in miniature tall beardeds?  Please visit the Median Society's websit

Saturday, September 9, 2017


By Susanne Holland Spicker

Join with us in congratulating Donald Demaz as the recipient of The Payne Medal, American Iris Society 2017 Awards, for "OH SO PINK' Japanese Iris.

 'OH SO PINK' (Donald Demez 2010) Photo by Cascadia Iris Garden

This voluptuous Japanese iris is described by the AIS Wiki as follows:

'Oh So Pink' (Donald Demez 2010) 30" Early bloom. Standards deep pink; style arms pink tipped deeper pink; falls deep pink, lighter around edge, yellow signal; ruffled. Donald Delmez 2010. AM 2015, The Payne Medal 2017.

Thank you, Donald, for this spectacular Japanese iris.

Interested in Japanese irises?  Please visit The Japanese Iris Society website for more information.

Friday, September 8, 2017

American Iris Society 2017 Awards The Eric Nies Medal for Spuria Irises 'Line Dancing'

By Susanne Holland Spicker

Please join with us in congratulating B. Charles Jenkins by Comanche Acres for the American Iris Society 2017 Award for outstanding Spuria Iris, 'Line Dancing'.

'LINE DANCING' (B. Charles Jenkins by Comanche Acres) Photo by Comanche Acres

This striking Spuria Iris is described by the AIS Wiki as follows: 

'LINE DANCING' (B. Charles Jenkins by Comanche Acres 2010) SPU 40" Early mid-season bloom. Standards lightly ruffled dark purple; falls dark purple, small yellow signal patch at style arms that changes to white rays radiating over 2/3 of petal; summer dormant. Comanche Acres 2010. AM 2015, The Eric Nies Medal 2017. 

Thank you Charles and Comanche Acres, for a stunning Spuria Iris.

If you're interested in Spuria Irises, please visit The Spuria Irises Society website.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

American Iris Society 2017 Awards 'Judy, Judy, Judy' The Morgan-Wood Medal

By Susanne Holland Spicker

Please join with us in congratulating Robert Hollingworth for outstanding Siberian Iris 'Judy, Judy, Judy,' the winner of The Morgan-Wood Medal, The American Iris Society 2017 Awards.

'JUDY, JUDY, JUDY' (Robert Hollingworth 2010)  Photo by Robert Hollingworth

This exceptional Siberian iris is described by the AIS Wiki as follows:

'Judy, Judy, Judy' (Robert Hollingworth 2010) SIB 35" Early mid-season bloom. Standards medium red-violet, style arms light blue; falls white, with medium red-violet dots merging into outer plicata band. Ensata 2010.  HM 2013, Walther Cup 2013, AM 2015, The Morgan-Wood Medal 2017.

Thank you, Robert, for a stunning Siberian iris, a well-deserved honor.

'JUDY, JUDY, JUDY' (Robert Hollingworth 2010) photo by Robert Hollingworth

Interested in Siberian Irises?  Please visit "The Society for Siberian Irises" website.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017


By Susanne Holland Spicker

Join with us in congratulating Joseph Ghio as the American Iris Society 2017 Sidney B. Mitchell medalist for his stunning Pacific Coast Native Iris 'FOGGY DAYS'.

'FOGGY DAYS' (Joseph Ghio 2007) Photo by leonineiris

Pacific Coast Native irises (PCN), or series Californica (CA) are tricky in many places in all but the far western area of the country in the native range, where they grow with graceful, dainty flowers usually one to two feet tall in most colors and patterns.

The striking Pacific Coast Native iris (PCN) 'Foggy Days' is described by the AIS Wiki as follows:

'FOGGY DAYS' (Joseph Ghio 2007) 10" Mid-season through late bloom. Standards white tinted blue; falls white lined blue-violet overall to distal edge, dark blue-violet signal. Bay View 2007.  HM 2010, AM 2014, The Sidney B. Mitchell Medal 2017.

Thank you, Joe, for yet another award winner!

For a complete list of the American Iris Society 2017 Awards, please visit

Tuesday, September 5, 2017


By Susanne Holland Spicker

Please join us in congratulating Ron Killingsworth as The Mary Swords Debaillon 2017 Medalist for Louisiana Irises for 'OUR FRIEND DICK'.

'OUR FRIEND DICK' (Ron Killingsworth 2009) Photo by Ron Killingsworth

The AIS Wiki describes this lovey Louisiana iris as follows:

'OUR FRIEND DICK' (Ron Killingsworth 2009) LA 38" Mid-season bloom. Standards pink violet veined darker; style arms yellow edges light violet; falls dark violet veined darker, white halo, golden steeple signal tipped dark violet, slightly ruffled. Plantation Point 2010. AM 2015, The Mary Swords Debaillon Medal 2017.

Thank you, Ron for an outstanding Louisiana iris!

Interested in Louisiana Irises?  Please visit The Society for Louisiana Irises website.

Monday, September 4, 2017

"Talking Irises" DISPLAYING IRISES Using a variety of flowers, vases and arranging styles to beautify our homes

By Susanne Holland Spicker

     (Irises from l to r) 'EXTRAVAGANT' (Hamblin'84), 'JUMP FOR JOY' 
(Hager '99), 'CELEBRATION SONG' (Schreiner '93), 'POEM OF ECSTASY' 
             (Hager '97) with giant allium, ruffled poppy, roses and lupine make
              a colorful floral piece to beautify and bring the garden inside

I have found growing tall bearded irises to be very satisfying. The beauty they bring to the garden beds, the excitement felt when a new cultivar blooms, or the magic that happens when the rhizome planted a few years earlier is now a clump can't really be described--and displaying irises inside brings that beauty and thrill into our homes.

 Tall bearded iris 'LULLABY OF SPRING' (Schreiner '87)
with peony, lupine and columbine

The graceful blooms enhance any home or office, as the flowers lend themselves well to a variety of aesthetically pleasing displays. Here in zone 6, TB irises start to bloom when the late bulbs and the early flowering perennials are in bloom, making it easy to use a wide variety of companion plants in bouquets.

Early blooming tall bearded iris 'GLOBAL CROSSING' (Van Liere '12) 
with late blooming spring tulips, bergenia and English bluebells
and early blooming tree peony, clematis, and lupine  

'SUPREME SULTAN' (Schreiner '88) Photo at the home of Dawn Mumford

Dawn Mumford proves that a lone iris stem can be spectacular to behold in her magnificent display of 'Supreme Sultan'. 

'JESSE"S SONG' (Williamson '83)

A simple arrangement is also beautiful, using just one variety of 'Jesse's Song' in a tall, crystal vase, using the entire stem for height.

A variety of vases, containers, and arranging styles provide a myriad of ways to add interest in iris displays, as seen here in the collage of some of the ways Dawn Mumford has used in her home, as she arranges blooms from her flower garden in these lovely iris florals. For more about Dawn and her amazing iris garden, please visit ("Talking Irises" MUMFORD TALL BEARDED IRIS GARDEN - A LOVE AFFAIR).

Debbie Hughes uses space and greenery to make this stunning focal piece with TB's

Karina Gonzales makes a bold statement with this beautiful arrangement from her flower garden

Pictured below are a few of the favorites I've made using a variety of color palettes.
Tall bearded irises top to bottom: 'QUEEN'S CIRCLE' (Kerr '00), 'CLASSIC LOOK' (Schreiner '92),  'DUSKY CHALLENGER' (Schreiner '86),
  'ALTRUIST' (Schreiner '87) with various Dutch irises and lupine

'LONG EMBRACE' (Van Liere '10) with Pink Hawaiian Coral peony

'QUEEN'S CIRCLE' (Kerr '00), 'PROUD TRADITION' (Schreiner '90), 
'NO COUNT BLUES' (Schreiner '09) with lupine and 'snowballs'

Iris Societies around the globe give the opportunity to enter irises in floral displays. If you're interested, contact your local iris society for details. The following pictures from the Utah Iris Society show how creative one can get when choosing a vase, container, or prop for displaying irises. The variety of form and symmetry/asymmetry of the arrangements show how versatile a floral display can be. NOTE: Names of entrants and irises used weren't available at the time of publication. My apologies to those individuals and my congratulations for their beautiful displays.

Utah Iris Society, 2014 Awards
Utah Iris Society, 2014 Awards
Utah Iris Society, 2014 Awards 
Utah Iris Society, 2014 Awards 
Unlike a show where the display is being judged at a precise time and the blooms are at their prime, irises for arrangements needing to last up to a week or more should be chosen with the future bloom in mind. 

Some tips to remember when preparing and arranging flowers:

  • Pick stems early in the morning, before the sun is out, or, if necessary, late in the evening, when their sugar content is at it's lowest level. 
  • Cut the stem and then re-cut under water. This will keep the channel in the stem open for water to get to the bloom and keep it hydrated. 
'EAGLE'S FLIGHT' (Schreiner '86) 
with assorted purple alliums, lupine and 
Coral Hawaiian Pink peony in bud or just opening stage
  • Choose stems that have buds showing color, or ready to open. 
  • Keep in draft-free areas, out of direct sunlight. 
  • Use a floral preservative, changing the water every day or two, if possible. 
  • Deadhead spent blooms when necessary. 
  • Keep in mind where future blooms will open to insure a pleasing display, as shown in these examples

Day 4 of the arrangement 

 A formal display of early blooming TB's.  Plicata 'LEANNA' (Meininger '97) 
and luminata 'DAUGHTER OF STARS' (Spoon '01) go well with beardless 
Siberian Iris Caesar's Brother, peony Yoshina Gawa, giant allium and lupine.  

 Beautiful true blue 'BABBLING BROOK' (Keppel '66), and
white, flounced and lovely 'MESMERIZER' (Byer '91), with dutch iris, 
peony, allium and lupine.

 'JESSE'S SONG' (Williamson '83)
The first iris to bloom this particular year with the late daffodils and tulips

Simple sprays ready for the grave site on Memorial Day. 
Voluptuous 'WEDDING BELLE' (Keppel '07), plicata 'EPICENTER' (Ghio '94), 
and velvety dark self 'SPECTACULAR BID' (Denny '81)

The complimentary colors of blue 'ABSOLUTE TREASURE' (Tasco '06) 
and luscious coral 'SOUTHERN MORNING' (Metler '11) 
with English bluebells and lupine

A harmonious informal spring bouquet of tall bearded irises, from left bottom to right: 'JENNIFER REBECCA' (Zurbrigg '85), 'SWEETER THAN WINE' (Schreiner '98), 'LATIN LOVER (Shoop '69), 'RASPBERRY WINE' (Schreiner '01), 'CLOSE UP' (Tompkins '72),
'LADY FRIEND' (Ghio ''81), 'CUPID'S ARROW' (Ghio '90)

There is no limit to what you can do when preparing a display of your irises. From the smallest miniature bearded irises to the tall bearded irises, or the stately Japanese irises, and every other iris variety, with hundreds of thousands of color combinations, companion plants, vases, and containers or props, formal arrangements, a stem in a vase, or a spring bouquet--the possibilities are endless!

Do you like to display your irises at home? If so, I'd love to read your comments and see what you are doing with your iris blooms.