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HER MAJESTY, 1903        Rarest & New
This pixie queen is an “exquisite shade of lilac-pink, almost old rose” (The Garden Magazine, 1917), but what really sets it apart is the rich tapestry of deeper rose that ornaments its falls. Plant it where you can enjoy that exquisite detailing up close, or pick lots of bouquets! Fragrant, 24-26”, zones 3a-8a(10aWC), from Ann Arbor. Chart & care.
IR-20
1/$7.50
3/$20.50
5/$32.50
10/$60
25/$135
INDIAN CHIEF, 1929        New
With velvety, wine-red falls and glowing standards of raspberry to bronze, this tall, striking, Jazz Age iris is one of the most colorful we grow. It’s exceptionally vigorous, too, thriving on neglect in old gardens everywhere and blooming even in part shade. By the good Dr. Wylie Ayres of Cincinnati, 32-36”, zones 3a-8a(10aWC), from our Ann Arbor micro-farms. Chart & care.
IR-12
1/$7.50
3/$20.50
5/$32.50
10/$60
25/$135
LORELEY, 1909        New
Named for the golden-haired siren of the Rhine, this quirky flower was one of the most popular iris of the early 20th century. Its glowing, primrose-to-amber standards are held in an open, goblet-like form, and they’re often splashed with bits of the richly veined violet of the falls – two “imperfections” that somehow only add to its enduring appeal. By Germany’s Goos and Koenemann, 22-26”, zones 3-8a(10aWC), from our Ann Arbor micro-farms. Chart & care.
IR-39
1/$9
3/$24.50
5/$39
10/$72
25/$162
MONSIGNOR, 1907        
Introduced by Vilmorin-Andrieux et Cie, the famous French seed company, this sumptuous iris features violet standards over deep, velvety, claret purple falls with vivid white reticulations and an orange beard. But popularity and survival depend on more than good looks, and ‘Monsignor’ — like many cherished pass-along plants — grows with great vigor and blooms abundantly. Fragrant, 28-32”, zones 3a-8a(10aWC), from our Ann Arbor micro-farms. Chart & care.
IR-31
1/$9.50
3/$26
5/$41
10/$76
25/$171
MRS. GEORGE DARWIN, 1895        New
The perfect size for bouquets, and luminous in the garden, this elegant small iris is named for Maud du Puy, the Philadelphia-born wife of one of Darwin’s sons. Although often confused with its sister ‘Mrs. Horace Darwin’ (which we offered last year), it’s laced with gold and purple (not just purple) and blooms later (extending the sisterly season). 24”, zones 3a-8a(10aWC), from Ann Arbor. Chart & care.
IR-25
1/$7.50
3/$20.50
5/$32.50
10/$60
25/$135
PALLIDA DALMATICA, 1597        
This is the iris of my childhood, and maybe yours — tall, pale lavender, tough as nails, with a Concord grape fragrance that, as Elizabeth Lawrence wrote, “fills the borders and drifts into the house.” In his monumental Herbal of 1597, Gerard called it “the great Floure de-luce of Dalmatia” and praised its tall stalks, “faire large floures,” and “exceedingly sweet” scent. Even its leaves are beautiful! Stately but down-home, it’s a quintessential iris — and somehow makes everything around it look better. (See it farmed in Italy for making perfumes and gin.) 36-38”, zones 3a-8a(10aWC), from Ann Arbor. Chart & care.
IR-09
1/$10
3/$27.50
5/$43
10/$80
25/$180
SHANNOPIN, 1940        Rarest & New
Grown by author Vita Sackville-West at Sissinghurst – one of the 20th century’s most iconic gardens – this pastel beauty was bred by T. Lloyd Pillow, superintendent of Pittsburgh’s Street and Sewer Department. On tall, strong stems, its primrose-and-cream standards over old-rose, almost-pink falls make it an iris that our garden visitors always notice and admire. 38-42”, zones 3a-8a(10aWC), from our Ann Arbor micro-farms. Chart & care.
IR-22
1/$10.50
3/$28.50
5/$45
10/$84
25/$189
SUSAN BLISS, 1922        
The finest “pink” iris of the early 20th century, this lilac-rose beauty first sold for an unheard-of $75 each. For decades it was widely-praised for its “perfect form” (Wayman), “robust constitution” (Puget Sound), “freedom of flowering” (Hellings), and “appealing creamy pink tone” (Mead) which “blends well with almost any color” (Peckham) — and that’s all still true today. 30-34”, zones 3a-8a(10aWC), from our Ann Arbor micro-farms. Chart & care.
IR-33
1/$6.50
3/$18
5/$28
10/$52
25/$117
SWERTI, 1612        
This grape-scented beauty was first pictured 400 years ago in the lavish Florilegium of Emmanuel Sweert, a Dutch artist and nurseryman who was head gardener for the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II. Although it’s often confused with ‘Madame Chereau’ (see them side-by-side here), its curled, pointed falls are distinct — and charming. As for its spelling, although Sweert’s name has two Es, and ‘Sweertii’ would be correct by modern rules, we’re sticking with the historic ‘Swerti’. 30-36”, zones 3a-8a(10aWC), from Ann Arbor. Chart & care.
IR-34
1/$8.50
3/$23.50
5/$36.50
10/$68
25/$153

IRIS HISTORY — Native from Europe to Nepal, bearded iris are one of the world’s oldest cultivated flowers. They were carved on the walls of Egyptian temples, grown by the monk Walafrid Strabo in the ninth century, and included in Gerard’s great Herbal of 1597.

Colonial gardeners grew a handful, but the real glory days for bearded iris began in the mid-1800s when breeders in France developed scores of exciting new varieties such as ‘Madame Chereau’. British and American enthusiasts soon joined in, and by the 1920s iris ranked as one of the top three perennials in American gardens.

HIPS, HIPS, HOORAY! We’ve been members of the terrific Historic Iris Preservation Society since its founding in 1988, and if you love heirloom flowers we think you’ll find it well worth joining.

IRIS ARCHIVES — For customer tips and raves, the stories behind the flowers, links and books, history, news, and more, see our Iris Newsletter Archives.

IRIS AS CUT FLOWERS — For tips for longer lasting bouquets, see our Bulbs as Cut Flowers page.

IRIS PLANTING AND CARE — Unlike most sources, we ship our iris as bare-root plants in the spring. (See an example here.) Plant them right away. They’re freshly dug the day we ship them, they can take light frost, and to bloom their first summer they must get growing again ASAP. If necessary, store in the fridge for 2-3 days or “heel in” briefly in moist sand or soil.

Iris like lots of sun. Give them half a day, at least, or more for increased bloom and better health. Good drainage is essential, too, so plant in sandy to average soil. Avoid or improve heavy (clay) soil or plant on a slope or in raised beds.

Space 10-18 inches apart. Iris grow/expand outward from the leaf end of the rhizome (bulb), so keep this in mind when arranging and planting them.

Don’t plant too deep! Leave the top of the rhizome exposed. Dig a hole, mound soil in the center, set plant on top, and spread roots down the sides of the mound. Fill in and firm soil, making sure that the top of the rhizome remains exposed (or barely covered in extremely hot climates). Water well.

Though iris are drought-tolerant and will rot in soil that’s too wet, they’ll need regular moisture the first few months after planting as they reestablish themselves. So water them, but not too much. Let your green thumb be your guide.

After flowering, cut bloom-stalks to the ground. Weed carefully to avoid damaging shallow feeder-roots. For best bloom and health, trim or remove dead or disfigured leaves (but not healthy green ones!), especially in late fall and early spring, so air can circulate freely and sunshine can warm the rhizomes.

After a few years of vigorous growth, your iris may get so crowded that their bloom and health begin to suffer. To thin or divide them, wait 4-8 weeks after bloom and then either open up the clump by removing the oldest rhizomes from the center, or dig it all, replant the best new rhizomes, and give away or destroy (don’t compost) the others.

Iris have relatively few pests or diseases that trouble them. You can get helpful advice on the most common ones — iris borer (which is a problem east of the Rockies only), leaf spot, and root rot — at the excellent Iris Garden website sponsored by the iris societies of New England.

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