The colors of iris include every color of the rainbow…and colors so sweet, so pale, so rich, you’ll probably become as fascinated as I am by iris. Back on Long Island where I grew up, iris were uncommon. I’m not sure why but I don’t remember many iris in the gardens in Floral Park nor in Huntington. My in-laws had a patch of white and purple irises in a little bed in their front yard. They have a heavy scent, like grape soda pop, when the sun shines on them and warms them. My father in law dug up the rhizomes and put them in a plastic bag and carried them down to Virginia when he moved in with us. We planted them on the slope next to the driveway that became the sunny perennial garden, before we even knew it would become a garden, and they have spread out nicely.
The Colors of Iris: Slideshow
Here in south central Virginia, iris thrive. There are so many iris that I have seen them growing along road banks on back roads, big swathes of color and sword-shaped foliage. There are some that appear to be ‘wild’; across the road from us is a stand of loblolly pine, and there smack in front of it is a patch of pale blue iris growing on the bank above the drainage ditch for rainwater. Across the street and down a few houses is a home with exactly that same shade of iris. I don’t know if someone planted those pale blue iris in front of the pines or if a squirrel dug up a rhizome and replanted it. I suspect a squirrel-gardener was at work.Here in south central Virginia, iris thrive. There are so many iris that I have seen them growing along road banks on back roads, big swathes of color and sword-shaped foliage. There are some that appear to be ‘wild’; across the road from us is a stand of loblolly pine, and there smack in front of it is a patch of pale blue iris growing on the bank above the drainage ditch for rainwater. Across the street and down a few houses is a home with exactly that same shade of iris. I don’t know if someone planted those pale blue iris in front of the pines or if a squirrel dug up a rhizome and replanted it. I suspect a squirrel-gardener was at work.The Colors of Iris: Slideshow
Click through the slideshow below to see the colors of iris in my garden:
The Many Colors of Iris
The colors of iris fascinate me. As soon as I saw how well they grew, I planted two rhizomes from packs I purchased at Wal-Mart. And then – I waited. And waited. Part of the trouble was that I’d ruined the soil in that part of the garden, totally by accident. When we decided to make pathways through the perennial garden, we thought we would put down a layer of sand first, then stones for the path. BIG mistake. We did not do the edging first nor did we have any erosion barriers, and we completely under estimated the slope above. Rainwater washed all the sand into the garden bed. When you mix sand and red clay you get… crap. Pure, unadulterated cement-like soil that nothing grows in. We managed to kill almost all the shade garden plants in that bed and what we didn’t kill through our ignorance the deer finished off later. So much for the shade garden. I made it my mission to replenish the soil and carted so many buckets of compost to that spot that I’ve lost count.
Well, something worked, because the iris survived the sand mistake. For three years, they have pushed out their foliage and nothing else. I’d forgotten what colors they were, and the plant tags I’d stuck into the ground near them broke. The writing wore away. I knew one was a pink-blue and the other a blue, and one had the word “rain” in the name and the other “cherub” but beyond that, I just prayed they would survive.
This year is the year. The compost and inches of mulch we’d placed over the garden bed we ruined have helped. I planted butterfly bushes along the back of that bed, offspring of the original plants in the butterfly garden, and a few columbine raised from seeds. The daylilies from the original garden kit we purchased are back. There’s even a hosta struggling to rise from the dead; I keep thinking, “You’re deer food” but it won’t listen to me. Fortunately, I learned my lesson about hosta and deer that first year, and now I have hosta plants as foundation plants near the front and back porches, areas deer fear to tread and areas Shadow can patrol even from inside the house.
But there, in that sandy mess, rising from the ashes of my ignorance were my iris. This year, the many colors of iris are resplendent in the garden. The purple and white grape-scented ones from my in-laws have blossoms ready to show. The pale blue, dark and light purple, and lemon-scented yellow iris from my friend Joan’s garden are all blooming profusely. And there along the back edge….iris “Cherub’s Smile.” Blooming brilliantly with large ruffled petals and a beautiful mix of pale pink and light blue in the petals.
|Iris “Cherub’s Smile”|
How did I know this one was Cherub’s Smile if the tags wore away? Fortunately, I’d been more diligent about keeping my garden journal back then. Garden journal is too fancy a name for what I do. I have a three ring binder with loose leaf pages in it. I write notes and I tape seed packets and plant package information there when I plant something. There it was – the plant information from the two iris rhizomes I’d purchased at Wal-Mart, complete with pictures. “Cherub’s Smile” was the pale colored one. The picture on the package shows a pale pink, and mine has pale pink and blue, but I don’t trust package labels. Having worked as a marketing manager for many years and learning a lot about the printing process, I know that colors can be off on labels. It’s Cherub’s Smile or if it’s really not, then it’s the fault of the grower who made a mistake with it.
At any rate, this iris is no mistake. It’s gorgeous. The many colors of the iris are resplendent today. We expect heavy rains tomorrow, with a big storm moving in, so I raced out to photograph as many of my iris as I could. Enjoy the colors of the iris in my garden!
- Bearded Iris Culture Fact Sheet from the USDA to help you grow your own bearded iris.
Jeanne Grunert is a certified Virginia Master Gardener and the author of several gardening books. Her garden articles, photographs, and interviews have been featured in The Herb Companion, Virginia Gardener, and Cultivate, the magazine of the National Farm Bureau. She is the founder of The Christian Herbalists group and a popular local lecturer on culinary herbs and herbs for health, raised bed gardening, and horticulture therapy.