Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Some tall bearded irises

Tall bearded irises 'Golden Panther' on the left  and 'Cherry Blossom' on the right with  Allium 'Firmament' 

A view of the tall bearded irises at poppy time. 
Another view from the opposite direction

Iris 'Golden Panther' again 

I finally took the plunge. And the water is deeper than I anticipated. Although I've explored the genus Iris pretty thoroughly as a gardener, and I've enjoyed tall bearded irises all of my gardening life, I've always sensed that the world of the tall bearded iris was a world of its own, one so potentially rewarding and absorbing that it should be approached with caution. The standard of enchanting, riveting beauty is so generally high among these plants that once one’s connoisseurship begins to fan the embers of acquisition fever,  one is likely to be sucked into a world from which there is little hope of return. Didn’t Henry Mitchell write somewhere that he alone once grew hundreds of cultivars?  
In 2012 I ordered a collection of about three dozen cultivars. That was a difficult period for me, and those did not get planted until well into the fall. Most of them did not survive the winter. It’s quite believable to me that my gardening guardian angel arranged for this failure. He was watching out for me.
But I reordered in 2013, and most of those plants survived and grew well. The only plague the gardening guardian angel could arrange this time was an infestation of voles: they took some of the new plants. Some of the survivors bloomed in 2014, but it was not until this year that I finally realized what I had gotten myself into. For the last two weeks, every time I visit my community garden plots (that’s where the irises are) I fall into a state of spellbound enchantment as I move among the blooming irises; and what I see is not the only delight - their varied fragrances can be a huge source of enjoyment.  I forget what else I might have had in mind in visiting the garden; I neglect other projects. I take too many pictures. I keep asking them, “where have you been all my life?”
Keep in mind that the varieties I grow are nothing special: they are good, very good,  modern hybrids, some of them among the best iris of their debut year, but far from the newest and most expensive sorts. The average cost for mine was about $4 each. It’s hard for me to believe that more expensive sorts could possibly give more satisfaction.  Of course, there is that seemingly inescapable and disagreeable side to human nature, that infirmity which causes familiarity to breed contempt, and I might find myself numbered among the iridomanes of the future.

But for now I’m happy.

Here are some of the ones I’m enjoying this week.

This first one is well named; here are three views, two showing the opening buds.

Iris 'Drama Queen' 

Iris 'Drama Queen' 

Iris 'Drama Queen'

The intense color of this one amazes me: again, the developing buds are as fascinating as the open bloom.

Iris 'Rustler' 
Iris 'Rustler' 

Iris 'Color Strokes'

As the following two show, tall bearded  irises do black and close approaches to black very well. The falls on the first one are to my eyes as black as can be - it's as if some trick of the camera is taking place. 
Iris 'Black is Back' 

Iris 'Diabolique'
 The richness of color of this next one is better seen in the garden:
Iris 'Medici Prince' 
 This next one introduces us to the one color failing of tall bearded irises: none is what most people would see as a true red. To supply that lack, I plant corn poppies among my irises: see the second photo at the top of this page.
Iris 'Red Masterpiece'

Iris 'Social Graces' here with Allium (Nectaroscordum) siculum  
Iris 'Social Graces' in early morning light 

Iris 'New Leaf' 

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