A genus found throughout the temperate regions.
The Bearded Irises comprise hundreds of the garden
The foliage is sword-like and the flowers, borne
on two- to four-feet stems, have three upper or
standard petals and three lower or fall petals.
Iris kaempferi, the Japanese Water Iris, hasbroad
and flat-headed flowers of varied shades, and
Iris sibirica, also a water lover, is rather like
a miniature Flag.
Iris unguicularis (syn. Iris stylosa) is from Algeria,
and has rich deep purple-blue flowers from November
The Gladwyn (Iris foetidissima) is noted for its
brilliant orange seed in autumn.
are all lime lovers.
Of the bulbous Iris there are the Dutch, Spanish
and English types with narrow foliage and two-feet
stems, bearing flowers with long pedicels and
two-inch segments blotched yellow. Iris reticulata,
which blooms in February, suggests a miniature
purple Iris of this form.
Propagate by division in the case of Bearded Irises
and by means of offsets in the case of bulbous
The flowering season is mainly in June, but there
are bulbous species that bloom in winter and early
All the Iris family is perennial, but one section
of it is “herbaceous” and evergreen,
the other bulbous.
The height of the flowers varies
from four inches to five feet, and their colours
comprise almost every shade; the time of blooming
is from January to July.
The herbaceous section may be sub-divided into
the Germanica or Flag Irises, both tall and dwarf;
the Japanese or Kæmpferi; and the “Beardless”
and other miscellaneous kinds.
The German or Flag
Iris is the best known of these, and in its commoner
varieties is one of the widest spread and most
easily grown of all perennials.
It is at home
in damp spots under trees and on dry slopes; for
many years a long row of the common blue flag
has flowered in the gravel of the permanent may
just outside Victoria Station; and a cottage garden
is scarcely complete without a clump of it.
broad, sword-like leaves spring from a rhizome
or flat woody root-stock, from the under side
of which the root-fibres grow.
In planting, the
fibres must be carefully buried, but the rhizome
must not be sunk below the surface of the soil;
on its full exposure to air and light the success
of the plant largely depends.
Planting may be
done any time between September and March; if
the former date be chosen, see that the roots
are not lifted from the ground by the winter’s
frosts and thaws.
The soil may be “mended”
if poor, avoiding fresh manures.
consists simply in keeping down weeds, which are
too apt to insinuate themselves among the crowns;
couch-grass seems to have a natural affinity for
the root-fibres which it closely resembles, to
the gardener’s dismay.
At the autumn clear-up,
cut off the withered flower-stems and the litter
of dead leaves and scatter some compost, leaf-mould,
etc. among the crowns, not so thickly as to cover
The roots should be lifted the third or
fourth year, and the healthiest pieces replanted
in a fresh site.
A plant may be propagated by
taking off a piece of rhizome with leaves and
root-fibres on it, using a sharp knife, and planting
the section in open ground.
The best time for
this and for moving Irises in general, is about
the end of February, when the roots are beginning
The following is a selection of named kinds of
Iris Germanica (the “type”); deep bluish
Iris Atropurpurea; deep violet-purple, large.
Iris Aurea; clear yellow.
Iris Flavescens; light yellow.
Iris Florentina; white
Iris Ganymede; yellow and maroon.
Iris Gracchus; lemon and purple.
Iris Madame Chereau; white margined with deep blue.
I Queen of May; pale mauve and pink.
Pallida; pale lavender.
Victorine; violet and white.
There are scores of fine kinds, which the grower
can select for themselves from any catalogue if
they wish to extend their collection.
The Irises named above grow to a height of about
three feet. The dwarf varieties do not exceed
nine inches; their culture is the same as that
of the taller kinds.
The best are: Iris cristata,
Iris chamaeiris, violet;
c. aurea, yellow;
c. sulphurea, pale yellow;
Iris olbiensis, deep
Iris pumila caerulea, bright blue,
The Japanese or Kæmpferi Iris is very like
the wild yellow flag of our ponds and streams
in its foliage and in the shape of its flowers;
it differs very much in the size of the latter
and their wide range of colour.
The blossom is
broad and spreading, the three petals which in
the Germanica race rise erect to form the “standards”
are in the Kæmpferi flattened almost to
the level of the “falls”.
comprises pure white, white flaked and blotched
with rose or purple, many shades of blue, violet,
purple and lilac; in most cases there is a yellow
blotch at the base of the petals.
There is a bewildering
choice of named sorts – some Anglicised
into the familiar Hannibals and Snowdrifts and
Mrs. Joneses of the catalogues, and some in their
native Japanese – which the grower must
pick for himself.
The Kæmpferi Iris is decidedly
aquatic, and to do itself justice its roots ought
to be within reach of water; the banks of a pond
or brook may be lined with it. If an attempt be
made to grow it in ordinary garden soil, it must
be regularly and abundantly watered. The roots
should be planted before growth begins in spring;
results should not be looked for for at least
twelvemonth; as it is a plant which likes to settle
itself in its place before making any display.
It may be worth remembering that rats will eat
the roots, and sometimes make havoc of a whole
The “miscellaneous” class of Irises
mostly resemble the Germanica family and require
much the same treatment. Amongst these may be
noted the native variety
the Gladwyn Iris, pale mauve flowers followed
by pods of scarlet berries;
two feet, lilac and yellow;
Iris Monnieri, three
Iris orientalis (or ochroleuca), a
fine strong grower with white and yellow flowers;
Iris Siberica, three feet, bright blue with narrow
leaves, prefers a moist situation;
light blue and yellow blotch, requiring light
well-drained soil; in a sheltered position it
will flower in January.
The second division of Irises, the bulbous-rooted
kinds, consists of the “English”,
the “Spanish” (Iris xiphoides and Iris
xiphium) respectively, and a few other “miscellaneous”
The English Iris has a bulb resembling that of
a narcissus, which throws up light green reed-like
foliage and in June and July flowers of the flattened
type, three or four inches across with road “falls”
and narrow “standards” which do not
meet as in the German section.
The colours range
from pure white through lilac, light blue, violet,
and reddish tints to a very rich purple; the race
shows none of the bronze and orange shades which
are characteristic of the Spanish Iris.
The latter has very narrow and rush-like leaves;
its bulb and its flowers are smaller, but their
differences of colouring are wider than those
of the English Iris.
These include pure whites
and blues, with rich orange throats; but the distinctive
tints of the Spanish Iris are yellows, oranges
and purples, shot with metallic or smoky hues.
Both sections should be planted early in the autumn;
September is quite late enough.
If the bulbs are
left in the ground for a second season, they will
often show the green tips of their shoots in August.
The ground should be light and good; heavy samples
may be mended with grit, leaf-mould and wood-ashes.
The roots should be planted, the English three
inches deep, the Spanish two, below the surface
and about three inches apart.
To be effective
they should be in groups of not less than a dozen;
beds of any size may be filled with them, as space
The growth should require no tying up;
and when the foliage is quite dead it may be carefully
pulled away and the roots left undisturbed below.
In light soils the bulbs will flourish and increase
for several years untouched, but it is best to
fork them up and replant them every third year
in August or early September.
The following “miscellaneous” sorts
may be tried in light soils, giving them the same
treatment as the English section.
Iris pavonia; the Peacock Iris, white with dark
green-blue blotch, dwarf.
Iris Persica; white, blue and yellow; requires a
warm sheltered corner. Flowers in March.
Iris reticulate; dark purple, with yellow spot,
violet-scented. February and March. Sheltered