Monday, January 14, 2019

Irises as Part of the Perennial Border

By Kevin Vaughn

I grew up in Massachusetts in the AIS of the 60’s and when we went on tours the iris were not grown like a corn field but rather as a part of a garden picture. 
'Cup Race' was one of the famous irises to come out of the Stedman Buttrick garden.
Image courtesy of Schreiner's Iris Gardens.
Some of these gardens were impressive beyond words.  Leola Fraim’s, Miriam Corey’s and Stedman Buttrick’s gardens were amazing collections of irises but housed with an equally impressive array of other perennials.  Almost every garden had three perennials that bloomed essentially along with the irises. Peonies, in shades of rose and pink, were used to complement the abundant blues of the irises, and were especially effective against clumps of blue Siberian irises.  The peonies were large enough that they could almost be used as shrubs in these borders.  Oriental poppies were very much the rage in that era. The Fischer Oriental poppies brought to the public a range of colors and forms that had not been seen previously.   Clean pinks, whites, and raspberry shades were now in the palette of colors available to the gardener in addition to the more vibrant (and less easy to use in landscaping) oranges and reds.   When the Countess von Stein Zeppelin visited from Germany, she was so impressed that she negotiated with Mr. Fischer for seeds and plants of hers so that she could develop her own strain for European gardeners. In Massachusetts, lupines were almost weeds (in fact they have naturalized in places in Maine) and the Russell strain offered clear colors and much better density of the flowers on the heads than in previous strains.  One plant that was popular in Massachusetts at that time was the gas plant (Dictamnus).  Mrs. Corey had actually crossed the dark rose and white strains and had several unusual shades of white veined pink and clear pink.  These are very solid plants. One of the fond memories of my youth in Massachusetts was blooming a seedling from Mrs. Corey’s strain and also lighting the gas with a match.  Odd that you don’t see them more used today.

Besides what we were observing at iris peak almost every one of these gardens featured daffodils and other spring bulbs, daylilies and towards the shadier portions, hosta.  In many cases, these “other companion plants” became interests of their owners too and almost everyone dabbed a little pollen from one of these groups as well as the iris.  Consequently, the collections of these plants were also state of the art.  A visit to these gardens even before or after iris peak was still a treat.

All of these yards had another component that most of us don’t think of as part of the garden: beautiful pristine lawns that bordered every bed.  Lawns are like the frame on the picture. They offer a refreshing green that cools the effect of the garden and sets off all the plantings.   In the Buttrick garden, these lawns flowed gently down to the banks of the scenic Concord River.

Polly Bishop, who was my mentor, had a lovely perennial garden, although not on the scale of the bigger gardens in Region 1.  She had crossed pansies with Johnny jump-ups to create a strain of hardy hybrids that self-sowed and blanketed the irises and bloomed throughout the year.  These were shallow-rooted plants and provided a living mulch around the bearded irises in the winter. In Polly’s garden, hardy succulents such a sedums and hens-and-chickens, were used to highlight the beds as well as many other rock garden type plants. These plants liked the same sharp-drained soil conditions as the bearded irises and added interest in both foliage and in flower.

Admittedly, that it is MUCH easier to manage irises in rows in terms of cultivation.  You can’t run a rototiller through a perennial border!  One only has to look at the magnificent display gardens at Schreiner’s here in Salem Oregon to see how effective irises can be as part of a much bigger picture.  I’m talking to myself somewhat here too.  Although I don’t do corn rows, I do use raised beds chiefly of bearded irises.  The spurias and Siberians are much more integrated into the borders and the Pacific Coast Natives are incorporated into the shade borders.  Now to work on those bearded beds Kevin!

Monday, January 7, 2019

Diversity of Color in Louisiana Irises - Red Irises

by Ron Killingsworth

"The name Iris is derived from a Greek word meaning "rainbow" and is a fitting name for this beautiful family of flowers." (The Louisiana Iris - The History and Culture of Five Native American Species and their Hybrids, an official publication of the Society for Louisiana Irises.)

The pigments of the iris petals create the brilliant colors of irises.  There are many articles and books written on this subject, so feel free to "google" it and learn as much as you desire.  Our discussion today is simply about the wide range of colors to be found in this group of irises.

The color range of Louisiana irises had been greatly expanded by more than 75 years of hybridizing.

In other postings we have looked at other colors of Louisiana irises, in our search to study the diversity of color found in irises.  Now I want to start this discussion with the Louisiana irises that are red or somewhat red.  Color is a big subject and from reading the descriptions of irises in various registration documents, it is easy to see that not everyone describes one color the same as someone else.  Therefore, if some of the irises shown below are not what you consider red, then just remember that someone else thought it is indeed red!

'Acadian' by S. Conger 1956, is actually registered as rose color.

'Amber Goddess' by Charles Arny 1963, is registered as amber.  Irises from this period provided the colors needed to expand the diversity of color in Louisiana irises.

'Boiled Crawfish' by R. Guidry, 2016, is registered as red and although it is relatively new,
still has the old flower form like the Sidney Conger iris above.

'Captain Bill' by Sidney Conger, 1956, registered as red (Corinthian red) stands with mauve rose falls.

'Chacahoula Fire' by Rusty McSparrin, 2005, registered as orange red but there is much more going on in this iris.
Notice the signals are bordered in red. The pod parent was 'Cajun Caper' by MacMilliam in 1975, a violet iris.

'Cherry Cup' by R. Morgan, 1988, is registered as "full red".  This picture is really of two irises, one immediately above the one below.  Both parents are registered as red.

'Coral Island' by Peter Jackson of Australia, 2017, registered as "coral pink.  What a beauty.  Such "eye catching" signals and style arms. The pod parent is orange and the pollen parent is "ruby red".

'Exquisite Idea' by Heather Pryor of Australia, 2006, registered as "stands lemon, falls golden yellow" but I see some red in this iris, do you?  Also lots of other colors.  It is certainly "eye catching".

'Extra Dazzle' by Heather Pryor 2003, registered as "dark cyclamen rose".  The registration picture shows more green in the signals, and the next picture, shown below, does show more green in the signals.  I do not know if this bloom is older or newer than the one below.

'Extra Dazzle' - a love irises that have an "appropriate" name and this one certainly has extra dazzle.  There are not a lot of Louisiana irises with the signal on all petals.

'Fiesta Gal' by Charles Army, 1987, registered as "blood red". This iris was not used much by hybridizers,
I found only one other with his as the pod parent and none with the pollen parent.

'Fire Alarm' by Caroline Dormon in 1951.  Registered as "carmine self". See 'Wheelhorse' below for a similar iris.

'Flaming Hot' by Ron Betzer in 2016, registered as "stands red-orange and falls red-orange".  If you have access to the iris registration information, look up the parentage of this iris!

'Flash Harry' by Penny Davis of Australia in 2008.  The registration picture looks quite a bit different and talks about "red flush" and "wine red".

'Fringed Gold' by D. L. Shepard in 1992.  I am often asked to name my "favorite" iris and this one is always in the list of twenty to thirty "favorites".  It is registered as "brick red".

'Gladiator's Gift' by John Taylor of Australia in 1990.  Registered as "greyed red".  Looks red to me.

iris.nelsonii - one of the species of Louisiana irises

'Kerry Lynette Douglas' by D. R. Grieves of Australia 2007.  Registered as "greyed red" and "rusty red".

'News Brief' by Henry Rowlan 1982, registered as "red" and "chrysanthemum crimson".  More red here than the registration picture. 

'Our Friend Harry' by Ron Killingsworth, 2011.  I had to include at least one of mine, right?  Registered as "maroon" but I do not know why -- most men do basic colors and I would have thought I registered this as "red".

'Pointe Aux Chenes' by Joseph Musacchia in 2005.  OK, this one is not red but I like it and so here it is!  It is registered as "peach" but I see a lot of red in it.  The picture below is same iris, different view.

'Pointe Aux Chenes' -- look down into the area in the middle of the style arms and see if you think it has some red. Pointe Aux Chenes is, among other things, a wildlife management area in south Louisiana.

'Professor Neil' by Joseph Mertzweiller 1990.  As mentioned above, the tetraploid Louisiana irises, many of them anyway, came from Joe Mertzweiller's work with tetraploids many years back.  'Wheelhorse', described below, was included in the pod parent.

I do not know the name of this iris or where I found it.  We call them "surprises" around here and they pop up from time to time.  Could be a seedling, could simply be a named iris that has lot its identity.  I think it is pretty and red.

'Wheelhorse' by Caroline Dormon, 1952, registered as "rose bitone".  I found 14 irises with this as the pod parent and 24 with this as the pollen parent.  Still a show winner and was one of the irises treated with colchicine by Joseph Mertzweiller in his development of the the tetraploids Louisiana irises, many of which he named for his professor friends, such as 'Professor Marta Marie' (J. Mertzweiller, 1990) and many of them are "redish" in color.

To learn more about Louisiana irises, visit here. To learn more about all irises, visit the American Iris Society.

Next time we will look at yellow Louisiana irises.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

2018's Top Blog Posts

2018 In Review

The last year was an important one for The World of Irises. In late October, our number of views passed one million, a significant milestone. During the year, we have had posts of all types of irises. It is useful to look back and note the most viewed The World of Irises posts. Here are the top ten for 2018.

If you missed any of these blog posts, just click on the title and it will load the article for you.

The most viewed post of the years was "Talking Irises" - THE 2018 TALL BEARDED IRIS BLOOM SEASON: A SPECTACULAR SHOW! By Susanne Holland Spicker. This was a guest post and we miss Susanne’s colorful articles as she had been on a sabbatical from writing.

Image by Susanne Holland Spicker

That post was followed by “Photo Essay: A Visit to Schreiner's Iris Gardens” By Mike Unser.

Next was Tom Waters’s important post about the complicated issues of fertilizing:  “Fertilizing Irises.” This post lead to many serious discussions and some of us have changed our gardening habits based on its information.

Tom Walter’s post about fertilizing was followed in views by Keith Keppel’s “New Color Combinations in Plicatas, part 2."

Bryce Williamson’s post about the new and yet unnamed iris species was next: "New Iris Species Azure Blue."

Next in line was Ginny Spoon's post about East Coast reblooming irises: "Reblooming Iris: A Love Affair." 

That was followed by Chad Harris’s article “Iris Ensata,Iris Laevigata, and Pseudota in Containers.”

And rounding out the top ten viewed posts of 2018 was Keith Keppel’s part 1 of “New Color Combinations In Plicatas.”

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