Friday, June 24, 2022

Wild about wild iris!

Iris gigantocaerulea

 People always ask "what is your favorite flower?": I'm sure you get that too...when you've grown thousands upon thousands of plants in your lifetime, where to begin? I think I can aver that wild iris have been a pretty ongoing obsession for me since I was a kid. I had tread this ground before vis-a-vis Colorado's native iris. Seeing this largest flowered of native iris blooming in Ernie Demarie's mind boggling garden last week rekindled my obsession (fortunately he sent me home with a rhizome!)...

Iris spuria v. urumovii

A few weeks ago visiting Keith Funk I saw THIS exquisite thing. He's promised me seed at least (maybe even a division): it captures the elegant flower form and the wonderful clumping nature of these wildlings. OK, the flowers aren't really blue--but I can live with that faint lavender tint, the soft violet. I think the iris blue is haunting and true. The combo of flower shape, color, the grassy foliage and vase like form--multiply this by thousands in a meadow! Heaven on earth...

Iris sibirica 'Caesar's Brother'

I grow several Siberian iris, but this one (with the inspired name: it's magnificent without the name--but makes you think--what would Iris sibirica 'Caesar's Cousin' or 'Caesar's sister-in-law look like?. This happens to be growing in my brother-in-law's rental home garden with little water or care. Methinks I need this one too!

Iris setosa var canadensis

Or is it Iris hookeri? It looks so close to the Alaskan setosa I can't quite see segregating it--and the Hooker epithet confuses it with the very different Himalayan Iris hookeriana. This perfect specimen is growing in Ray Radebaugh's spectacular Louisville garden I've blogged about several times and shall do so yet again! Since this is promoted by Plant Select, it's not hard (or expensive) to find. And find it I shall!

Iris cristata

One could (and should) dedicate a whole blog post to this delightful Eastern iris I've been lucky enough to see blooming in the wild in Kentucky and Missouri. If you don't know Joe Pye Weed's mail order nursery you have no idea what you're missing in the way of cristata and more!

Iris sintenisii [photo by John Brink]
I have grown this species before but never such a compact and spectacular form, which John Brink has seeding all over his garden. He's promised me a clump (and delivered this photo--I went to his house twice to photograph it this spring--and never got as good a shot!)

Iris ruthenica var. uniflora

I've shown this in the wild: the typical ruthenica has small flowers tucked among the leaves. Fortunately the foliage is lovely--otherwise one might not be so crazy about it...

Iris ruthenica (tall form)

Laporte Avenue nursery sold this upright form of the same species: easily one of my favorite plants this spring. It set lots of seed which I'll send to the NARGS seed exchange...

Iris douglasiana

And finally, one of our most glorious natives: I took this last April at the exquisite botanical garden ("Tilden") in the Berkeley Regional Parks. I grew this for decades as a youngster in Boulder from a clump I dug up on the coast range between Los Gatos and Santa Cruz.

This spring I planted several dozen irises in the Californicae section of the genus which are looking very happy this far.

As I said, I'm wild about wild iris!


  1. Your post is right up my ally, even though I grow many species and constantly adding more, the photo of Iris spuria var. urumovii (and others you show) has me reeling with Iris species fever. When will we ever get Iris rossii?

  2. I thought of you as I typed this blog post: scary how many fantastic species we have yet to grow--and you are the Master!

  3. Love these little relatively uncommon iris. Was blown away by Iris taurica and paradoxa this Spring. Taurica had over 30 blooms while paradoxa had huge deep purple flowers with bronze bands and centers. I will be on the lookout for more of these wild rock garden iris. Beautiful.


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