What is your name worth? Who are you if people just started calling you John or Jane Doe? Would it change how you look? Would it change what you know? Would it change what you could do and your value in society? These are the hard questions we have to ask about named iris – what is it about their names that are so important and why do we even care?
The newbie trying to trade any plant soon learns the importance of knowing the name of the flower they are trying to trade. But in the world of iris with so many places having their iris misnamed, or passed along from friend and family, or gathered from out of the way places – what is an iris name really worth?
There is nothing about not knowing the name of a plant that will make you love it less or more. It will not smell better, it will not stand out better in the garden, and it will not change into anything less than the plant it was born to be. Most gardens have one or two plants without their names and, while some people fight to figure out the names of their little flowers, the question is why? There is a simple pleasure to be had with just enjoying a flower for the flower’s sake and not for the name, breeder, or pedigree of the plant.
Without knowing the name of a plant, it is next to impossible to get many people to trade with you. It is hard to list, and, no matter how many names you know in the garden, people will always ask about the one you don’t know. Let’s look at a few reasons you might really want to know the name of your iris plant.
Some plants are rare and worth more. They might be new to the market or they might be historical and very hard to find. Whatever the reason, just their name makes them worth more than the common plant – even with a name – in the garden. These are prized plants and anyone who has them giggles with excitement when they get to show off their wonderful rare flowers.
The fact of the matter is new costs more. Iris, on the whole are not the best when grown from tissue culture. Thus, most iris you buy from anyone with a reputation to keep up will have to grow them out. New iris that started their life a few years ago as a little seed costs more due to the fact there are less of them. Sometimes the cost is worth it for the new plant. At other times there are equal choices for your garden already for sale at a much cheaper price. This is where you have to weigh the cost. Plants will always lose their value the longer they are around and they will, in time, be much cheaper. If you can afford to wait any iris can be yours at lower prices.
Funny and Meaningful Names
Some plants we buy for the name. It might be for a memorial, something funny, or to fit into a theme garden. Doss shared with me “I've only bought one iris for the name. That was Hot Ziggedy because my grandfather said that all of time. The names are fun but don't determine what I buy. My neighbors enjoy reading the markers though.” There are those out there who buy almost all their iris for the names and others who buy for a wealth of other reasons.
Trade and Retail
The biggest reason I keep names is the simple fact that I want to and love to trade. You need to know the names of your plants to really get in on the trade game. If you ever plan to sell your iris online or locally, you need to know their names. One misnamed iris going out can ruin you credibility in the iris circles, especially if it happens again and again and again.
No matter who in this world breeds the iris there will always be seedlings that might be okay for the common garden but are not something anyone wants to stick a name on. On the chance you do come across a breeder selling cull stock, you just need to know this is a unnamed seedling from x breeder.
The Seeds You Plant
A very important side note, one that online auctions really don’t want you to know is that unless you are dealing with species iris crossed with the same species iris the seed you plant will never look just like the parents. They will not be able to be traded under their parent’s name and they will not be the same flower. Seed are a mixed bag. They take space in your garden to reach the point of blooming and then you never know if it is going to be a deal or a dud.
I want to thank Pajaritomt, Jackieshar, Avmoran, Irisloverdee, Happygarden, and Doss for answering my many research questions for this article. Photo thanks to Badseed.
About Mitch Fitzgerald
I am a pentecostal preacher, gardener,husband, and a father. I love natives, daylilies, iris, and roses. I love teaching others, be they children or adults, about the garden and plants.