It is Iris season here in Oregon and the varieties are seemingly endless. Since this is our first spring here I never know what is going to pop up out in the gardens and it’s always a very nice surprise to see so much variety. Before this week I knew just about nothing about irises except that they are pretty. After a bit of study I at least now know what I am looking at and will probably stop trying to get the top petals to lay down flat to get better photos of the insides.
We were up in Portland last week and on the way home we stopped in at Schreiner’s Iris Gardens.
What a great idea that was! They are just a bit north of Salem in the Quinaby district. They have a 10-acre display garden with 500 varieties of irises along with other plants and trees.
The bloom season is May 9 to June 1 and is well worth the trip. The Schreiner’s have been in business since 1925 and they are the nation’s largest retail grower of irises. Their hybridizing program has been internationally recognized as one of the best and their irises have won eleven Dykes Memorial Medals, the highest award given by the American Iris Society.
Their website is http://www.schreinersgardens.com. You can order irises on-line and also at the gardens, where they have other plants and cut flowers for sale.
Iris is from the Iridaeceae family and is a genus of 260-300 species of flowering plants with large, showy flowers. Its name is derived from the Greek word for rainbow. Irises can be found throughout the north temperate zone from the Tropic of Cancer to the Arctic Circle.
They are perennial plants, usually growing from creeping rhizomes ( a modified subterranean stem of a plant, usually found underground, often sending out roots and shoots from its nodes. They grow perpendicular to the force of gravity and have the ability to allow new shoots to grow upwards).
The inflorescences (a group or cluster of flowers on the central floral support) are fan-shaped and have one or more symmetrical 6-lobed flowers. The 3 sepals (outermost whorl of the flower) spread or droop downwards and are called “falls”. The falls are the most colorfully marked part of the flower. Bearded irises have white or colored hairs in the center of each fall, called the “beard”. Crested irises have a ridge or crest on each fall.
The 3 inner petals are called “standards”; they stand upright in the enter of the flower, but may be horizontal.
All parts of the plant are poisonous and contact with the sap can cause skin irritation. On the good side, they are low-allergen plants and are used for floral arrangements.
There are five classifications of irises according to the Royal Horticultural Society in London, England:
1. Bearded Iris-from miniature dwarf to tall, the most widely cultivated group of irises. They grow from rhizomes and prefer well-drained conditions.
2. Beardless Iris- they generally have more flowers per stem than the bearded. There is a bright contrasting spot of a different color on the falls that replaces the beard, called a “signal”. They grow from rhizomes and prefer well-drained conditions.
3. Crested Iris- they grow from rhizomes and spread freely. Each petal has a white patch and a yellow or orange crest on each fall. They prefer moist soil.
4. Bulbous Iris- they are beardless and dormant in the summer. They grow from bulbs and prefer well-drained soil.
5. Aril Iris-a bearded wild iris species found in semi-arid to desert climates from Central Asia to the Middle East. They become dormant in the summer. Good drainage and full sun are a necessity. They prefer totally dry, baking summers, but can tolerate some wetness. There is another type of iris called Arilbred which is a cross between arils and bearded iris. They will grow anywhere that bearded irises grow.
In our garden, I think we have only the bearded and beardless types of irises and some wild purple/blue irises growing out in the woods .
Schreiner’s Gardens website- http://www.schreinersgardens.com
American Iris Society- http://www.irises.org
Aril Society International- http://www.arilsociety.org
An Illustrated Guide to Perennials by Professor Marshall Craigmyle