D.K. on Bulbous Irises

In The GardenBulbous Irises

Garden Flora.

PLATE 653. BULBOUS IRISES.
(with a coloured plate of I. HISTRIO, ROSENBACHIANA, PERSICA, AND KOLPAKOWSKIANA. *)

Amongst the loveliest of our spring flowers, these bulbous Irises are held in high esteem by all those who take a real interest in their gardens. The majority of them are found in dry, exposed situations in the Mediterranean region, Turkestan, and elsewhere, and may be grown even in quantity with comparative ease in almost any garden. I. reticulata and var. sophenensis, Krelagei, and its charming variety cyanea, are too well known to need detailed notice here, although in passing We may note that the netted Iris at least are subject to a disease which affects the bulbs and renders them entirely useless for flowering purposes. This we believe to be almost, if not entirely, due to the presence of vegetable matter in a decaying state in the soil, as we have always seen that those bulbs nearest to the leaf soil were most afl'ected. At any rate, we have entirely baffled the disease by clearing out tlie old soil and using pure loam and coarse, gritty sand. A very sunny position, sheltered from the north and east, as winds from these directions are very injurious to the blooms in spring, should be chosen. The bulbs should be lifted and dried annually as soon as all growth has ceased and the leaves died off, planting again from a fortnight to a month later.

The English and Spanish I. xiphioides and I. Xiphion have now attained great perfection, and may be had in almost endless variety, the colours and markings being most gorgeous and fantastic, and as the bulbs may be grown in the ordinary mixed border, there is no excuse whatever for their absence fron; the garden. They rarely ever fail, and are enhanced by the fact of their late flowering habit, carrying the flowering even beyond the germanica and pallida groups. No chance should bo lost of raising I. reticulata and Krelagei from .seed should an opportunity present itself, as wonderful variety may be had, and the seedlings flower in three or four years from seed. The seed should, however, be sown as soon as gatliered and left in a cool frame shaded from bright sunshine. The variety sophenensis of the netted Iris, introduced only a few years from the hill-sides near Kharput, Asia Minor, is quite distinct in colour, though otherwise not much different from the type. I. Krelagei cyanea is a most lovely little plant, bright sky-blue, and one of the earliest. I. sisyrinchium, scorpioides, Boisaieri, and others are all beautiful in their way, and worth a trial.

The Caucasian Iris (I. caucasica). — This plant has been in cultivation for many years, but seems to be giving way to the more showy species, such as those figured in the annexed plate. Where variety is desired, however, it may be grown in small quantity and will be found perfectly hardy in the open air, producing its pale greenish white flowers in February and March. Iris caucasica has been confounded with a plant which we have received from the Continent as I. orchioides, and though now grown as a variety of caucasica, Dr. Foster seems inclined to give it a specific distinction. Whatever its difference from caucasica may be to the botanist, the gardener has in this (I. orchioides) a really beautiful golden yellow flower, produced in plenty, and at a time when blooms of this description are in demand. It is hardy, like its near ally, but we have always considered it too good to leave to the mercy of battering rains and mud splashes, and find it perfectly amenable to pot culture in an unheated house. It flowers in February, and is not mentioned in Baker's monograph.

I. FILIFOLIA. — This is a most lovely species, native of Spain, where it was found by Boissier on sandy calcareous rocks on the Sierra Bermeja at 3000 feet to 4000 feet elevation. It is said to be wild also in Morocco, where it grows in company with the better known I. tingitana. In I. filifolia the leaves are narrow and long at flowering time, the blooms when produced being violet-purple, 2 inches to 3 inches in diameter. It requires rather more care than the others, and almost refuses to produce flowers in the open unless the bulbs are well roasted against a south wall. I. tingitana, which is a near ally, is a native of Morocco, differing by its larger leaves, taller stems, and having larger and darker maroon-coloured flowers. The only really successful way of dealing with this species is to grow it in pots in rich light soil.

Lebanon Iris (I. Histrio)— No. 1 in the accompanying plate— is a very distinct and extremely showy species deserving fuller recognition than it seems at present to be receiving. It is nearly allied to the netted Iris, differing in the spathe valves being whitish instead of green, both the leaves and flower-stem being taller, the flowers larger and broader in all their parts and produced earlier, and lacking the fragrance that characterises both I. reticulata and I. Krelagei. It is, however, none the less worthy of a place in the garden, the colour of its flowers being quite different from that of either of those mentioned above, in addition to its blooming so much earlier. We are told that in favoured places in England it has flowered before Christmas in the open air. The leaves are awl-shaped, four-cornered, slightly glaucous and well developed, while the flowers are as yet in the bud state. The flowers when fully open are about '.'> inches in diameter, standards narrow, self lilac, the falls much broader, light blue, with large blue-purple blotches or spots on a creamy ground, with a bright golden crest through the middle. Native of Lebanon ; introduced about 1873.

I. .juncea (Rush-leaved Iris), called Buphane stylosa by Salisbury in the Transactions of the Horticultural Society, 1, p. 305, and cultivated by him in 1801, flowering the following year. None of those planted in the open air (he says) lived and those in pots dwindled away, becoming less and less every year, and at last sending out only one or two fibres nearly as thick as the bulb itself. This Iris appears to be extremely rare now ; we have only seen it in flower once. It very likely requires greater extremes in drought and moisture than our climate affords, and is in consequence more troublesome to keep; the fiowers are yellow, medium-sized, the leaves narrow and Rush-like. Native of Algeria; flowering in July

Iris KOLPAKOWSKIANA (No. 4 in the accompanying coloured plate) is another close ally of I. reticulata, introduced to our gardens from Turkestan about 1878. It is perfectly hardy in the open air, flowering about the same time as reticulata, and very effective in groups. Seeing that it is now fairly plentiful in the trade, we may soon hope to see it more generally grown. The chief difference from the netted Iris is in the bulb and leaves. The bulb is roundish or globose, about half an inch in diameter, the outer coat composed of open reticulated fibre. The four to six leaves are narrow, linear, deeply channelled on the inner face, with a central band or rib like a Crocus leaf, pale green without the glaucous tint usual to this group. The falls are deep violet-purple, with a beardless bright yellow keel from which are purplish branchings ; the standards are pale self lilac with creamy anthers. Plentiful in fields near Wernage, in Turkestan.

The Persian Iris (I. persica)— No. 3 of our plate— has a wide geographical distribution, extending from Asia Minor to Persia, and found, we are told, at elevations as high as 6000 feet above the sea-level, and in the south of England, at any rate, perfectly hardy in the open air. It was cultivated in our gardens in Parkinson's time as early as 1629, that writer remarking that it was very rare and seldom bore flowers. The Persian Iris is a great favourite with growers of the bulbous section of this genus, and, with the exception of the Spanish and English kinds, is perhaps more largely grown than any other. Its flowers are extremely beautiful and sweet, emitting a delicious fragrance resembling that of Violets. Out of doors it is the first to greet us in early spring, its flowers generally being in perfection about the end of February or beginning of March. This early-flowering habit necessitates its being planted in a somewhat sheltered position, otherwise the flowers get damaged by heavy rains and other causes, and their beauty lost. It may be planted in the ordinary border, but a light sandy soil, fully exposed to the sun, suits it better than any other. It is said, also, to be well adapted for growing in Hyacinth glasses, but as we have neither seen it nor tried it, we are unable to recommend it to others. The bulb is oval in shape, producing five or six pale green leaves, about ij inches long, 1 inch broad at the base, sharp pointed, and keeled on the under side. The scape, which is one or two-flowered, rarely exceeds 2 inches or 3 inches in height, the blooms bright sky blue, the falls marked with a yellow streak, having a deep purple spot at the base and on each side. A few flowers will scent a whole apartment.

I. ROSENBACHlANA; This, a good idea of which is given in No. 2 in the plate, and undoubtedly the most charming Iris of this section yet introduced, was found by Albert Von Regel a year or two ago on the mountains of East Buchara, Turkestan, at an elevation of 6000 feet to 7000 feet, and proved quite hardy out of doors in the Botanic Garden, St. Petersburg. It is found wild, we are told, in two varieties both growing together, the flowers of one form being blue, those of the other of a fine violet. The bulbs of both the varieties are small, with thin tunics, never reticulated, as in the netted Iris. _ The three to five leaves are linear-lanceolate, pointed, at the time of flowering short, but as the season advances, increasing in length. The flowers are on long tubes, the falls oval, at the forepart blunt, the inner broader than usual. Dr. Foster flowered the blue variety and Herr Max Leichtlin the violet one.

The Snake's-head Ibis (I. tuberosa)— This does not perhaps belong here, but we have found it of sufficient interest to grow in quantity, and add it to the Xiphions with the hope that others may be induced to try it. The directions usually given with this species, i.e., a dry gravelly soil, I find quite unsuitable. It requires a good rich and deep soil, with the roots planted well down out of harm's way, and with such treatment it flowers regularly. Its five or six leaves are long, quadrangular, dark green. supporting a one-flowered scape, the flowers being dark greenish yellow with a purple blotch on the falls. It flowers in April, and appears to have been cultivated by Gerard in 1597. Also called Hermodactylus (Salisbury, Transactions Horticultural Society, 1, 305).

I. Vartani. — This is a new species of merit introduced by Dr. Foster, of Cambridge, through Dr. A'artan of the Medical Mission, Nazareth, under the impression, we believe, that they were bulbs of I. Histrio. Dr. Foster says it differs from I. Histrio
in the bulbs being more pointed and of a longer, more slender oval form, the falls having a very narrow claw, which is crested. There are other minor, though Important, differences, sufficient to distinguish it from all other bulbous Irises known to us. The standards are narrow, brownish yellow, marked with deeper lines; falls yellow, and greenish with lilac lines. It ^flowers early, its exact locality in Palestine not being known. D. K.

^ Drawn for Tin; Gari'EN in ^Ir. Ware's nursery, at Tot-

tenham, by II. G. Mood, February liS, 1SS8, and lithographed ' and Printed by G. Suvcroyns.

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