Monday, April 4, 2022

Getting Started: Early-Blooming Historic Irises

by Mike Unser

As bloom season gets underway, I look forward to seeing early-blooming historic irises. The following is a brief selection of some of my favorite varieties:

Iris albicans 

Iris albicans is a messy little flower, but loved by many across the southern United States. This variety is often one of the first irises in bloom. Although known since ancient times in the Middle East, no one is exactly sure where this species originated. 

I. germanica var. vulgaris

I. germanica var. vulgaris is also one of the first to bloom in my garden. A low bud count means this variety doesn't show off for long, but the color is so rich and welcome in spring that I forgive its brief appearance. It has a lovely fragrance too.

'Crimson King'

'Crimson King', another of the old wild collected I. germanica varieties found in Europe, is always a welcome guest. This iris is ubiquitous on the west coast of the United States. I love the heavy purple coloration on the spathes. 

'Eleanor Roosevelt'

The rich color tones of 'Eleanor Roosevelt' are such a treat, especially set off by the jaunty blue beard.


'Primavera' never fails to thrill in cool lemonade tones. A very good grower and bloomer.

'Red Orchid'

And last, the always reliable 'Red Orchid'. This variety has bloomed for me every year since I added it to my garden. An old friend that is constantly changing as the light plays over it throughout the day.

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