Thursday, January 11, 2007

How many colors.....let me count.....

Aren't they pretty? These are 3 irises I would like to acquire (plus possibly a few more :-) --and may this coming fall if I am lucky enough to have a bit of money to buy irises with. These irises are pictures from Mid-American Garden and Iris Sisters Farm.
The Latin meaning for iris is "rainbow" and it is no wonder with all the colors they come in though red is still the all allusive color all breeders aspire too. The picture on the bottom is one of the varieties "closest" to red. It is called Wearing Rubies. I am sure there are at least a few others that are close but the true red they are looking for has not yet shown up. It is the same as the aspirations of some breeders to attain true blue in some other flowers. (If you didn't know there are only a couple of flowers in the world considered to be close to true blue in color--most have some shade of purple/lavender in them).

I knew that iris roots where used for orris powder (used to fix the scent of potpourries) but I did not know this taken from wikpedia *Iris roots are harvested, dried, and aged for up to 5 years. In this time, the fats and oils inside the roots undergo degradation and oxidation which produces many fragrant compounds that are invaluable in perfumery. The aged roots are steam distilled which produces a thick oily compound, known in the perfume industry as iris butter.*

The reason for this post is that I have been out planting the irises I spoke of recently. Having dug them up I now have to find them a new home. One bucket of my irises is now planted but I am waiting for the weather to warm a bit this morning so that I can go decide where to put the rest. These are irises that came with me from my last house---they were purchased the month before we bought this house unexpectedly. I couldn't leave them or a lot of the other plants there. When we sold our house we wrote the contract to include us taking quite a few of the plants with us---many days labor prepping them. The people didn't mind---they just wanted a yard for their dog.
When we moved here I dug up and gave away HUGE amounts of the "regular" purple and lavender irises the original owner planted. I am into flashy plants and like double color irises and those with speckles and spots too so the others were a bit staid for my taste and besides they were overgrown with poison ivy---definitely a need to dig all of them up.
The best thing about irises to me is that they are very very hardy plants and will grow pretty much where ever you put them as long as you choose the correct variety. Bearded are my personal favorite for the color varieties, size of flower and scent even though the flower is short lived. And that does not mean that I don't like the others--we have had or do have a number of other varieties, but as I said bearded are my favorite.
Irises if you didn't know grow in the polar tundra, temperate forests, grasslands, swamps, deserts, mountains, coasts and rain forests. They are grown and flourish on just about every continent and many of the islands around the world.

And will they multiply! They don't just sit there and grow a small amount each year. By year 3--irises can and probably should be dug up and divided for best foliage and flower. Another nice thing is that , except for the really small pieces, they will all still bloom the same year you divide them so you don't loose a year like you can with some plants--just not as much as they will the next year. When transplanting irises make sure you check each part and cut out any disease or squooshy looking parts while you are planting. And according to most sites you should trim the fans to 1/3 ---I have planted rhizomes that the fans got knocked off and I know many people that don't trim the fans when planting. As I said---they are pretty hardy.
In the south you generally need to lightly mulch them to keep out weeds and conserve moisture. If they dry out they will usually go dormant and come up later in the summer /early fall. Too many years like that and some of the less hardy ones can die out though. In the north , from what I understand you need to mulch the first year to make sure they don't frost heave while they become established enough to hold their selves in the ground pulling the straw back in the spring to allow them to warm up .
Irises are also a great flower to "play" with if you would like to try crossing. Using just the bearded group to play with who knows what amazing colors of uprights, falls and beards you could get and that not even considering crossing them with some other types of irises. That is something that is not my cup of tea but I would enjoy watching a friend do it.

If you are wondering why I have all these flowers of different types that I blog about periodically, it is because at one point we thought about supplying cut flowers as a small side line business. A project that was put on hold when we moved to this property and started on the house, but may eventually be a small part of our income down the road. We wanted to specialize in perennial seasonal cut flowers and branches---clematis, peonies, irises, hydrangeas, forsythia, curly and fantail willows etc etc.
Maybe with the advent of spring/summer and a new camera I can show some of the beautiful flowers we are lucky enough to grow here.


Cheryl said...

Gorgeous! Irises are my mother's favorite flowers so we always had lots of them around when I was growing up.

farmer, vet and feeder of all animals said...

Cheryl---I keep coming back just to look at the pictures since they are so pretty. I guess I'll have to work hard at "saving" my money for those irises so I can see them in real life hahahaha