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Irises are among the hardiest and easiest to grow perennials. They can be grown all over the United States and in most of the world. There are so many new Iris out there it can, at times, be hard to know were to start an Iris collection. I would suggest that the modern gardener look to the older historic iris as the backbone of any garden. These irises have stood the test of time, they bloom in adverse conditions, and they will reward the grower with such little work it might feel like they grew themselves.
(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on August 18, 2007. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)
Even among historical irises there are so many to pick from it can, at times, be a daunting task. This is a short list of the best “have to haves” for your garden. The goal of this short list is not to be all-inclusive but rather to highlight a few must-haves for your garden. Before planting iris in the garden, make sure you have visited the Iris Forum for advice. Also make sure to check out all vendors you are thinking about buying iris from in the Garden Watchdog to ensure that you are buying the best you can get.
'Apache' - This maroon historical Iris was bred by Farr in 1926. This is not a tall bearded but rather a medium bearded. A true stand out in the garden and the best of the maroon color in the historic iris.
'Argus Pheasant' – This is a rich brown historical iris bred by DeForest in 1948. This is a tall bearded iris with one of the richest brown colors in the iris world. Keep in mind that brown iris look good in any color scheme garden and always stand out in the garden.
'Black Magic' – This is a rich purple known in the iris world as black. It needs to be noted there are no true black iris on the market yet -- just shades of dark purple and blue. That being said, this iris was bred by Wayman in 1935. This is an intermediate iris, good for the middle of the flower bed. The black effect will be better if you interplant with a light-toned iris.
'White Parasol' - This is the most unique white iris and is the "must-have" iris for any garden. Bred by Wolf in 1958, it was then, and still is, the most extravagant white tall bearded iris you can grow in the garden.
'Wabash' - The single most stunning purple iris in the garden, Wabash will catch your eye from the second you see it. Bred by Williamson in 1936, this tall bearded iris can be found in many older gardens. It was popular in days gone by and it is still popular today.
'Temple Gold' - There are many gold to yellow iris in the historic world, but many are dull and a little boring. 'Temple Gold', bred by Luihn in 1976, is one of the brightest, sunshinyest iris you can grow in the garden to this day.
'Sapphire Hills' - This is one of the best blues-- not too dark and not too light. Bred by Schreiner in 1971 this blue tall bearded iris will keep reminding you of the blue spring sky.
'Peachy Face' - Bred by Jones in 1976, 'Peachy Face' is a stunning light orange intermediate iris. This iris is a well-known show stopper in the garden, only getting bigger and better each year.
'Pink Taffeta' - A wonderful pink iris with ruffled edges and stunning falls. This tall bearded iris was bred by Rudolph in 1968. The color is crisp and clear and the ruffles will make you think of a victorian gown. It is truly one of the best pinks in the historic category.
'Skywatch' - Bred by Benson in 1963, Skywatch is a wonderful violet tall bearded iris. This is the iris to place in mass plantings to bring back the gentle comforts of yesteryear.
Try some of the historical irises - they have stood the test of time and continue to prove themselves garden-worthy plants.
'Apache' - Sugarbean1; 'Argus Pheasant' and 'Peachy Face' Wandasflowers; 'Black Magic' and 'Wabash' - laurief; 'White Parasol' and 'Skywatch' - puttytat; 'Temple Gold' - lantana, 'Sapphire Hills' - Margiempv, and 'Pink Taffeta' - kirrani
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.