Henry Mitchell loved irises. Me, too.
Iris time is peaking here in my garden. All the rain of the past two weeks has left me with soggy-tissue lumps to deadhead. But I have been delighted to see many of the pass-along plants I’ve received in the past two years blooming for the first time.
I thought my collection of miscellaneous iris might be redundant, but I am nothing compared to Henry. In his garden in Memphis, he apparently grew more than 500. Schreiner’s Iris Gardens continued to honor Mitchell posthumously for many years with gifts of rhizomes to his widow.
In a post last year, I wrote about inheriting this property in which iris seedlings grew like grass. Most of them couldn’t be salvaged, but a year or two after the surgery I do have a healthy stand of several different cultivars. Now, I am increasingly fascinated with identifying which ones I have.
If you have any tips on sources that can definitively identify iris, bearded ones in particular, I’d love to hear them. I did find the World Iris visual gallery, and their “QuickFix index” which is helping me slowly. “Quick” is relative when there are so many iris cultivars out there, and plant identification apps seem to be low on the programmer-type’s priority list.
I’ve got (that I’ve counted) a total of 13 varieties of bearded iris, Iris germanica:
Then, there are the ones I don’t know:
This iris is tall and mostly white, with flushes of pale blue. It blooms in early to mid May. Maybe ‘Helen McGregor’?
Maybe Cardinal? Maybe ‘Col. Candelot’? Maybe ‘Coralie’? ‘Dauntless’? ‘Frank Adams’? ‘Garden Flame’? ‘Golden Embers’? ‘Indian Chief’?
Unknown variety; bright red-lavender with orange in its center. Maybe ‘Constance West’?
This iris smells like grape jam. It was the first iris to bloom this year, in mid-April. It’s quite tall and has very thin, stiff stems.
This is a very short iris, less than 18 inches tall. It blooms in mid-April in my Zone 7b garden.
A cluster of my tall white bearded iris, which bloom in mid-April to mid-May in Zone 7b. The flowers are massive and often weigh down the stems, which are substantial.
I have had this purple one the longest.
The inside of the old purple one is spectacular.
Iris germanica ‘Carolina Darkness’ has never bloomed for me before, but it looks as though it will in the next few weeks. I cannot find a picture of it online. And there is the muddy yellow one of which, inexplicably, I do not have a picture.
Then, there are the other species:
Dutch iris; the variety is around here somewhere
Yellow flag; Iris pseudacorus
Iris virginica (blue flag iris) in bud
Iris tectorum, Japanese roof iris
Iris japonica ‘Eco Easter’
Iris sibirica ‘Caesar’s Brother’
This spring, my neighbor Martha gave me Iris cristata, dwarf crested iris. I understand it is white. Other not-yet-bloomed characters include the purple Japanese iris that I received from my sister’s garden some years ago, and Iris x louisiana ‘Black Gamecock.’
I understand it is possible, in a not-unreasonable amount of time, to actually watch an iris unfurl. If it ever stops raining, I shall treat myself to a sabbatical long enough to do just that.