Irises were among the very first cultivated plants to be planted. Settlers brought
the rhizomes with them, along with shrub roses, lilacs and peonies.
The history of cultivated iris reads like a mystery novel and there are many
Most of us grow and love what we call "German bearded iris," and while there
is a German connection, this is a group of plants that has swirled around
gardeners in the
from monk to monk who processed the "orris" root.
Researchers have yet to unravel all the mysteries. The irises in your garden have a
fascinating, murky past. With more than 200 species and thousands of hybrids, it
would take a lifetime - and a very large garden - to grow all the irises in the world.
Wild species are found throughout the northern hemisphere, from the blue flags
we see in the Rocky Mountains and the yellow fleur de lis of France to the tiny snow
iris from Turkey and the exotic water iris of Japan. These plants fill many niches in
the garden. Some grow best in rock gardens or xeriscapes, while others prefer moist
spots or standing water.
One of the parents of the colorful, beautiful hybrids we grow today is the old-fashioned
Iris pallida. If you live in an older neighborhood, you may have a clump growing in the
alley or perhaps beneath an ancient spirea bush. You can spot it by its plain lavender-blue flowers that smell like grape bubble gum. Many of these old hybrids and species may
still survive in your neighborhood. Give them a prominent spot and grow them with
pride and affection befitting their long, illustrious history.
For more great information on this old favorite go to Schreiner's