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Plants Online - Iris

Plants for sale - Iris

42

FLAG

Family IRIDACEAE
Iris species
Perennial

A genus found throughout the temperate regions.
The Bearded Irises comprise hundreds of the garden varieties.
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 to March.
The Gladwyn (Iris foetidissima) is noted for its brilliant orange seed in autumn.
The foregoing 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 species.

The flowering season is mainly in June, but there are bulbous species that bloom in winter and early spring.

Iris

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.
The 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.
The after-care 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 them.
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 to stir.
The following is a selection of named kinds of Iris Germanica:

Iris Germanica (the “type”); deep bluish purple.
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, pale blue;
Iris chamaeiris, violet;
c. aurea, yellow;
c. sulphurea, pale yellow;
Iris olbiensis, deep violet-purple;
Iris pumila caerulea, bright blue, very dwarf.

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”.
The colouring 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 plantation.

The “miscellaneous” class of Irises mostly resemble the Germanica family and require much the same treatment. Amongst these may be noted the native variety

Iris fœtidissima, the Gladwyn Iris, pale mauve flowers followed by pods of scarlet berries;
Iris Missourirnsis, two feet, lilac and yellow;
Iris Monnieri, three feet, yellow;
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;
Iris stylosa, 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” kinds.

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 serves.
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 position.

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