1921, The Flowering of Iris sari

The Garden p.296, June 11, 1921


ATTEMPTS to cultivate Oncocyclus Irises have so seldom met with success in this country that it seems, perhaps, worth while to record a case in which a plant of Iris Sari has been in cultivation for ten years and borne flowers in the present season The plant came to me originally from Asia Minor in 1911 and flowered in my garden at Godalming in the following year. It was treated in the same way as I treated the fairly large number of Regelia Irises and the few Oncocyclus species that I cultivated; that is to say, that I planted the rhizomes early in October and dug them up and dried them off soon after the flowers had withered. In those days I was always in a hurry to dig up the rhizomes from fear lest the root-thongs should have begun to branch and throw out their lateral rootlets. So anxious was I to avoid this that I used to dig up my plants quite early in June, and I failed, at first, to realise that this was the reason why the rhizomes did not remain plump and firm until October, while the roots dried up and withered away.

However, I began at length to see the error of my ways and persevered with the plants, though more than once I was tempted to throw them all away because the reward in flowers was so poor. I saw that if the rhizomes and roots were to remain sound and plump when kept out of the ground until October, they must be thoroughly matured before they were lifted. I therefore postponed and postponed this operation in each succeeding year until I finally put it off till the middle or latter end of July. The results were excellent, for the plants dug up at this period, could be left lying on the ground in the open as they were dug for a few days or a week. They remained quite sound, and, when the leaves had withered and been trimmed away, the rhizomes could be stored in a dry, well ventilated place until October. Then they were replanted in rich, well drained soil, not deficient in lime, and the. crop of flowers was abundant in the following year.

Under this treatment Regelia Irises have flourished exceedingly, while rhizomes of I. Sari, which had grown weaker and weaker, have regained their strength until they are once more of flowering size. The flowers of this species are remarkable even for an Oncocyclus species, and the accompanying sketch gives a good idea of their general appearance; while the colour scheme is a combination of browns and yellows which once won for the plant the name of lupina. the wolf.

The standards are heavily and closely veined with dark chestnut brown veins on a grey-white ground. In the lower part the ground colour is clearly visible, but towards the top the veins spread and become confluent so as to cover the whole surface. On the inner side there is a beard of long hairs, which are greenish yellow at the base of the haft and dull lavender further up.

The falls are veined with spreading, blotchy veins of a paler shade of red brown on a pale greenish yellow ground, and the veining becomes thicker and more prominent as it approaches the edges. There is a conspicuous signal blotch of deep brownish red of roughly semi-circular shape with several blunt, projecting points. The beard is greenish yellow, flanked on either side by numerous dingy lavender or purplish hairs, so that it appears to be very broad and spreading.

The veining on the style-branches is very similar to that of the falls, and the long green spathes have the disappointing habit of all the Oncocyclus Irises.of producing only a single flower. The stem is a few inches only in length, and the foliage is of the narrow falciform type, which is so characteristic of the group.

I. Sari was discovered by Kotschy in Cilicia in 1854 and was named after the river Sar, in the neighbourhood of which it was found. Collected specimens show that it varies a good deal in colour, but the shape and veining remain typical. My experience with the cultivation of this and other kindred Irises will certainly encourage me to persevere once more with Oncocyclus species, to give up any attempt to leave the rhizomes undisturbed and to pin my faith to the taking-up method. Even if we cover the plants overhead in summer and try in this way to keep them dry and prevent them from making new growth, it is impossible to keep the soil absolutely dry a foot or 18 ins. down, and moisture there is quite enough to enable the rhizomes to start into fresh growth early in the autumn. It is this precocious growth which suffers so disastrously in winter, with the result that the plants are irretrievably weakened and rendered flowerless, even if they are not actually killed. W. R. Dykes.

for more information on historic Irises visit the Historic Iris Preservation Society at

-- BobPries - 2014-10-07
Topic revision: r1 - 07 Oct 2014, BobPries
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