23 August 2010

Bearded irises: not so boring afterall?

Bearded irises. I've always thought of them as being pretty in a generic, over-planted way, when they flower, but inclined to require staking (I hate staking), with foliage that starts off nice but quickly gets all disease ridden and yeck (one of the side effects of living somewhere it rains all the time, I suppose).

But, recently I've been talking to the one and only Kelly D. Norris, who (in addition to a lot of other stuff. He's kind of insane. In a good way) runs Rainbow Iris Farms.  He's starting to change my mind -- or at least, getting me to give irises a second chance. Basically, he's doing this by tempting me on his nursery's on-line catalog with photos like this (all photos stolen borrowed with permission from Kelly):
'Giggles and Grins'
These ain't your Grandma's bearded irises...
'African Wine'

When I asked him about staking, he said "medians" don't need it. Bearded irises, like so many groups of plants that have been grown and bred and exhibited and obsessed over for a long time, have their own wacked-out language to describe themselves. The plants are broken down into categories like "Plicata," "Neglecta" and (my favorite) "Miniature Tall" (It used to be called "big small" but they decided that was too confusing). All these terms apparently mean things to Iris People. Kelly spent a while explaining it to me... still don't make much sense, but hey, who cares. They have flowers that look like this:
'Just a Croc'
When I asked him about foliage diseases... well, he said "they can do that." Which isn't exactly comforting, but with incredibly flowers like that, I think I'll be willing to put up with foliage that doesn't look perfect all year.

So... I ordered a few. Just a few. Okay, I ordered a dozen. But no more... except Kelly promised to throw in a few extras... Better start digging new beds for them all to live in!


Greenman said...

Great pictures!

Last Spring I was at Chelsea Flower Show, in London, and saw some amazing bearded Irises.
As I grow everything in pots, I do not have a single Bearded Iris.
Do you know anyone who growns them in pots??
I might try one or two this year!

Liz said...

These are beautiful. The only thing I don't like about irises is a short bloom time. But very durable plants.

meemsnyc said...

I love bearded irises. We are growing them in the side yard. I love those colors, pretty!

EAL said...

Well, yes, these are awesome, and the fact that some of them rebloom in late summer/fall would be the clincher for me.

Joseph said...

Greenman, I don't know about growing them in pots -- there are some really tiny dwarf ones which would probably do well in containers.