bearded iris Incantation
Bearded iris ‘Incantation’. April 29, 2009.

April 30th, 2009
Iris ‘Incantation’

A lavender blue bearded iris opened this week and I had to go through my files of photographs to identify it. Everyone is under the misconception that I keep great records. In contrast, I feel like I never write down the precise bit of information that I want to know later. When did I transplant this iris? Where did I move it from? What is it? Why didn’t I label it or jot down a few notes?

In my files I found several photos of ‘Incantation’. Some taken with my digital video recorder in on April 21, 2002. Another set taken with my first digital camera on April 24, 2005. These showed the distinct veining on the falls and the bit of bright orange on the throat of the otherwise white beard.

bearded iris Incantation
Bearded iris ‘Incantation’. April 24, 2005.

This year ‘Incantation’ opened on April 25th. I have only one rhizome left which has sent up one stalk with three flowers. I originally bought three rhizomes from Schreiner’s in 1999 for $7.50 a piece (not factoring in the discount). They bloomed in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2005, and now 2009. I thought I’d lost them to rot completely. I transplanted them again last fall and only one survived. It has been smothered by bluebonnets most of the spring and I was completely surprised when the flower stalk popped up last week.

Here’s my original impression from April 20, 2000.

First flower. Well-proportioned with standards the periwinkle blue of some of the larkspur. It blends very well with the larkspur but what I really need is contrast. This is the trouble with liking one color and buying every flower that is that color.

I think I was wrong. I look at the photo at the top of this post and now I think that’s just perfect.

bearded iris Strictly Ballroom
2009-04-05. Bearded iris ‘Strictly Ballroom’.

April 5th, 2009
Iris ‘Strictly Ballroom’

Today ‘Strictly Ballroom’ is the lone reminder of my former obsession with bearded irises.


bearded iris Silverado
2004-05-06. Bearded iris ‘Silverado’ on a cloudy day.

May 6th, 2008
Iris ‘Silverado’

Two small stems of the bearded iris ‘Silverado’ bloomed for May Day. I want to say that ‘Silverado’ has never been very vigorous in my garden but photographic evidence contradicts me. Apparently I had quite a good stand of it in 2003 before I divided it and moved it. The three large rhizomes I’d bought from Schreiner’s Iris in 1999 had multiplied to 12 crowded small ones.

Schreiner’s bred ‘Silverado’ and introduced it to the iris world in 1987 where it took award after award, winning the highest honor, the Dykes Medal, in 1994. The color is the palest silvery blue with the slightest hint of lavender. The color glimmers in the mist or moonlight but washes out in glaring sunlight. The blooms are full and ruffled without the over-the-top frilliness of some modern irises. The standards and the falls are proportionately balanced.

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photo: iris Champagne Elegance
2008-04-17. Bearded iris ‘Champagne Elegance’.

April 18th, 2008
Iris ‘Champagne Elegance’

Dateline: 2008-04-18

Did I move ‘Champagne Elegance’ as I chided myself to do in 2004? Why is my record-keeping so inconsistent? No, I chopped out the oregano instead. I had already moved her to the east square of the front lawn, a sunny spot where my plan was to plant roses and irises so that I could keep all the demanding plants together. The nearby Texas mountain laurel and oleander grew so quickly that this planned sunny spot was completely in the shade last year. So go my plans. As do my dreams of hundreds of irises multiplying exponentially.

Still ‘Champagne Elegance’ struggles on. Last year, Austin got twice as much rainfall in the summer as normal and I lost many bearded irises to rot. Only one rhizome of ‘Champagne Elegance’ survived. It produced three babies, each of which sent up a stalk and began flowering yesterday. Six small flowers in all. This is not a very impressive showing in the realm of tall beard iris fanciers but it pleases me.

Aren’t there certain flowers in your garden that make you run out when you spot them and whoop for joy? “Look! There’s ‘Champagne Elegance’ again’,” I insist, showing anyone who will stop and look.
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photo: bearded iris rot
Overcrowded and smothered by dead leaves, these bearded iris rhizomes are in danger of developing iris rot during the hot, humid summers in Central Texas.

July 29th, 2003
Iris Rot in Bearded Iris

Reader Janette Boley asks for help combatting iris rot.

When the weather’s hot and humid, bearded iris rhizomes have a tendency to turn to mush. When the temperatures hit the 90s, you should not feed your irises. If you water at all, you should water carefully–deeply, but infrequently. Never allow water to stand on iris rhizomes. Water in the morning so that the rhizomes can dry out in the sun. And do not bury the rhizomes under the dirt or mulch them. Irises can survive the summer with very little water, although their will yellow and turn brown. They’ll come back again in the fall.
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photo: iris Sneezy
Bearded iris ‘Sneezy’

April 16th, 2002
Iris ‘Sneezy’

Sadly, ‘Sneezy’ bloomed in my garden only once and then disappeared. Experiences like this persuade me that I’d be better off just forgetting the garden and buying cut flowers instead.