At one time or another each gardener must make the choice. Will their main focus be the historical or the modern? This goes for style, colors, plants, and yes, even the iris they choose to fill their space with. This will be a short look into the case for both sides and a hope to give you a better idea of what you love and why.
First things first.
Grandmother always had an iris garden. It grew down the slope behind the house towards the creek. Those irises will always have a place in my garden no matter how common, ugly, plain, boring, or mundane they become. Why? They are not a matter of like or dislike. They are a matter of memories and love. She is tied into each and every one of the iris that I have here now from her garden. The same can be said of a lot of iris in gardens all over the world. They are grown for no other reason but the memories they hold. They may have come from the living, or may be from the grave of the dead. They may have been from a place we remember fondly or they may be from a long forgotten homestead we chanced upon. These iris are grown for the memory they hold.
No matter how you look at it these plants, they are the ones that you know will be there year after year. They are strong plants that have what it takes to make it. They are not going to putter out, die out, or just up and give up on life one day. They have been here, they are going to be here, and they are here to stay.
These plants bloom. Plants that don’t bloom, and bloom well, are not passed along. Plants that were not passed along at some point are gone. You know when you get a historical iris that is has passed the test of time in blooming. You already know that unknown numbers of people have seen it, loved it, and picked it to live when so many others are lost.
These plants thrive. They can be found growing with little care; granted they do much better with care. They can take whatever life, Mother Nature, or the whims of a gardener throws at them.
Oh the names you can find. What are you looking for? What do you collect? What do you find funny? There is an iris named that, or there will be---just wait. Everything from iris named for theme gardens, to names, to ones that will make you blush, there is something for everyone in the names. It is a great joy to watch your guest reading the names of your flowers when you have some of the more colorful names.
The modern iris world is your rainbow, (or close to it). You have so many more choices for colors, and color combos in the modern iris. No matter what color you are looking for, with a few exceptions, you can find something to fill that spot. There has been so many advances in breeding for color that you can see a sharp difference in the older and the newer colors of some iris.
UFOs are not just in the sky – unknown flowering objects can now be found in the garden too. There are so many shapes in the modern iris that it can be daunting for the serious collector to find space for all of them that you want.Just remember that too many different UFOs all bunched together looks really out of place in any garden.
I want to thank Pajaritomt, Jackieshar, Avmoran, Irisloverdee, Happygarden, and Doss for answering my many research questions for this article. Thank you to Badseed for the photos in this article.
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.