Thursday, February 16, 2012

Netted irises

The irises shown here, blooming today in the open, are typical examples of the netted irises or, as they are more commonly called, reticulate irises.The name comes from the appearance of the fibers which cover the bulb: the fibers form a net-like pattern: the word reticulata in Latin means (among other things) netted.The name reticulate irises has successfully spawned confusion with the name of the species Iris reticulata, once the best known member of the group. But most of the garden irises called reticulate irises are in fact hybrids, not simply forms of Iris reticulata itself. To counteract that confusion, I'm using the older term netted iris.

The irises of this group are sometimes placed in a genus of their own, Iridodictyum, from the classical Greek word τó δκτυον for fishing net. This word Iridodictyum probably looks rather forbidding to those of you without a backgrouind in the ways of botanical nomenclature; but it's simply a restatement in romanized Greek of what the combination Iris reticulata says in Latin. Note that while Iris is feminine, Iridodictyum is neuter, so if you use Iridodictyum, you'll have to change some of the species names to agree with a neuter genus. Thus, Iris reticulata would become Iridodictyum reticulatum. In German they are called (among other names) die Netziris, from the German word das Netz for net.

They are easily grown with one caveat which one ignores at great risk: in our climate most of them require a very dry summer to persist from year to year. I'm experiencing an illustration of this now in my own garden: for years I covered the iris beds with a glass door during the dormant period of the irises. During those years the plants increased in numbers and size. Last summer I did not cover the beds. This year there are many disappointing gaps in the plantings. Mice, rabbits and deer do not seem to bother these plants, but hot, moist soil can be deadly when they are dormant.

Shown above is the hybrid 'Pixie'.

1 comment:

JForrence said...

I found your blog when searching for Galanthus identification tips. Lovely! I am in Baltimore and you are a few days ahead of us--nice to see what's coming. Thanks.