April 17th, 2005
Incredible Irises

photo: unknown bearded iris
2005-04-16. My tough bearded iris.

My yard came with a tall, bearded iris. The pale, golden-yellow flowers are old-fashioned in form and usually bloom in April. I think of them as my tax-time irises. They aren’t as fully-ruffled and showy as modern irises. They can’t even stand up straight, but have very wavy stems. But they multiply faster than I can give them away and bloom reliably every year.

These old irises fooled me into thinking I could grow bearded irises and every spring in the mid-1990s I’d send off an order for a dozen or more expensive named irises. Most would flower spectacularly in their first spring, but then fade out after a couple of years. So heading into the new millenium, I switched to heirloom roses.

Zanthan Gardens History

April 11, 1995. The first bearded iris bloomed today near the greenhouse: pale golden brown with deep chocolate brown lines. Not a color I would have chosen, but I appreciate more than last year. The flower is large, gently ruffled but not frilly, and a shape that I like.

March 12, 2002. The plant itself is as tough as nails. Last August, as usual, I divided a couple of clumps, replanted the largest rhizomes, and set the rest out behind the shed to give away. The people I promised them to never picked them up. In the meantime, the irises decided to plant themselves rooting on the spot and pulling themselve into the soil.

Today, seeing them try so hard to survive, I took pity on them and I moved a dozen of the largest ones into a newly dug bed. I don’t expect them to flower this year, but at least they’ll have a chance to grow until I find new homes for them.

NOTE: Last year, after higher than usual rainfall at the beginning of the year, these irises bloomed like crazy. Some of their stems can get 4 feet tall, and they curve back and forth rather than grow straight up.

I’m trying to discover what variety this is. I’ll put up more photos as they bloom. Here are some possibilities: [2018-03-25. These links are broken.]
* Flavescens
* Antigone

Try this. Other photos look much more lemon yellow; mine, are golden yellow. Is that because of the heat in Texas?
* Historic Iris Preservation Society: Flavescens
“Note: Flavescens is a wild collected variety, and was once commonly listed as I. flavescens. However it now recognized to be a naturally occurring hybrid and not a separate species.”

* Old House Gardens: Flavescens gone wild in Kansas

What do you think?

by M Sinclair Stevens

4 Responses to post “Incredible Irises”

  1. From Bill Nadalini:

    Just wanted to comment on your great entries, and ask if you were interested in getting rid of the chipper you mentioned you hadn’t used in years. I’m looking for a used one.

    Thanks either way.

    Actually, Bill…I gave the chipper/mulcher to a friend of mine in March. He was going to take it in for a tune-up and see if it was salvagable. — mss

  2. From Jarman Word:

    The vigor, colors, stripes, and branching horizontal stems seem much the same as my bearded iris from a farm in the Mississippi Delta. ‘Alta California’ is my best guess for its identity.

  3. From Barbara Jones - Terry, MS:

    Jarmon, from Inverness???

  4. From Maggie, Lake Travis area:

    I love these Irises and their pass along history! Carol gave some to me twice – once in a house just down the street from her and again for my new place. I have since given some to my sister (also in Austin) and to a neighbor here on my hill. They bloomed this year (which my neighbor and I were delighted by!) since we had not expected them to bloom the first year after transplanting. They are lovely! It’s nice to know they were originally yours! ‘Alta California’ is a good guess. The closest color I have found is an intermediate bearded called ‘Golden Muffin’ but it’s too short! Anyway, thanks for the irises!