Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Bearded Iris in MrMartha's Garden

MrMartha loves the fact that tall Bearded Iris are not only gorgeous in the garden, but the dried Rhizomes, also known as Orris Root, are an essential ingredient in Bombay Sapphire brand Gin!
It's a fabulous flower AND a tasty cocktail!

The front border at MrMartha's is ablaze right now with the tall stately blooms of German Bearded Iris. The hybridized form that is very prevalent in American gardens. Most commonly thought of in shades of blue and purple, it is also found in blazing white, strong yellows, delicate cream and peach tones, coppers, and browns. Busy hybridizers have also produced a myriad of bi-colors, tone on tones, subtle shadings, and even combinations of those combinations!! True red is one color you will not find in any Iris variety, though some lovely burgundy tones are now available, and the search to breed the elusive red Iris continues.

The Genus Iris comprises about 300 species, but the commonly known varieties include the German Bearded Iris, and others generally known by geological reference -- beardless Dutch Iris, Japanese Iris, and Siberian Iris. While each requires slightly different treatment and conditions to thrive, on the whole, all are relatively easy to grow without much fuss.

Read More for basic care and growing instructions, Links to amazing online galleries of Iris varieties, and some fun and unique facts about the plants and flowers.

Most common Iris grow from Rhizomes which are thickened roots that crawl along the surface of the soil, sending roots down into the soil, and leaf and bloom stalks upwards. What are generally known as Dutch Iris grow from bulbs. Iris foliage is sword shaped, generally in a fan pattern, and adds wonderful architecture and structure to garden beds when the plants are not blooming.

Generally unfussy as long as there is decent soil, and not subject to a lot of pests. The only ongoing requirement of most Iris is that the clumps of Rhizomes be dug up and divided every few years when they start to get overcrowded and quality of bloom starts to decline. This should happen at the very end of the summer/early fall.

Further information about Iris care and requirements for growing can be found at The American Iris Society.
If you would like to view more of the amazing varietals of Iris, there are some excellent online suppliers with web site galleries that one can drool over for hours on end....Including Brecks, and the incomparable Schreiner's.

Some interesting historical notes about the Iris:

The flower is the basis for the fleur-de-lis, symbol of the French Court in yellow, and in red it comprises the Coat of Arms of the city of Florence Italy. Also a symbol of the Boy Scouts.

Vincent van Gogh painted many works featuring the Iris. For a time, one of his Iris paintings held the record for the most expensive work of art sold at auction.

The dried Rhizomes, known as Orris Root have been used since the time of the ancient Egyptians, and continue to be important in modern perfume production. The roots must be aged for five years before they can be used in parfumery.

Iris is also a common female name, reaching its height of popularity in 1929 when it was the 196th most popular for newborns. Least popular in 1996 when it was rated 520th. Iris has been regaining ground in recent years, and was the 317th most popular name for baby girls in 2007. (source: Social Security Administration)