| Iris, The Rainbow Flower, Poor Man’s
Orchid, Grandma’s Flags…the number
of names proclaims the affection of gardeners for the
iris family. Irises are hardy, quick to multiply, easy
to transplant, come in many colors, and make wonderful
bouquets. Plus, the family is so large that some kind
of Iris will grow anywhere in North America, and indeed,
in most of the world.
We have grown well over 1000 varieties of irises. At one
time there were over 500 varieties of Tall Bearded (TB)
irises (the so-called German iris, the one you think of
first) here. Nowadays we are more selective, offering
about 100 varieties of TB’s by name. We still have
several hundred varieties because we also offer many smaller-than-tall
bearded irises, bloom beginning in early May, and many
beardless species, especially Siberians, which start blooming
in early June with the TB’s; spurias and Louisianas,
at the same time, and Japanese (I.ensata), which bloom
late June and early July.
We offer well-grown plants, free from disease,
and provide complete and accurate information on culture,
all at a competitive price. In the case of irises, we
offer something more. John and Helen have grown irises
for over 40 years. They are life members of the American
Iris Society and trained as iris judges. We are assembling
collections of the award winning irises in each class,
and can recommend those that do best in Central New York.
Bearded irises can be dug while in bloom and transplanted
bare root. We also provide some bearded irises and all
beardless types in pots, for convenience and ease of planting
at any time during the growing season.
About Irises: Where to begin? How about our favorites?
Most of the Schueler family like Siberian irises. They
are super hardy, have good clean and graceful foliage
that is an asset to the garden even when not in flower,
and they come in many colors besides purple: white, many
shades of blue, red-purple, pink, lavender, and yellow.
The roots of Siberians must be kept moist during and after
transplant, but, once established, they are rock-hardy.
There is the remnant of a famous iris farm (Indian Springs)
near us, where Siberians are growing and blooming with
abandon, untouched by humans since 1947.
there are the smaller-than-tall bearded irises, which
begin blooming in early May. Standard dwarfs (SDB’s)
bloom from mid-May to early June. They are 8 to 16 inches
tall, and come in all the delicious colors that TB’s
do. They are great in rock gardens and borders, and can
be planted in deciduous shade, because they flower before
the leaves come out. They also clump up quickly, and don’t
need to be divided as often as TB’s.
also are especially interested in historic irises at Phoenix
Flower Farm, and belong to the Historic Iris Preservation
Society (HIPS), so if you are looking for a sentimental
favorite that Grandma grew, come see us. If we don’t
have it, we may be able to put you in touch with someone
who does. If you grow an iris that you know to be over
30 years old, and want to know its name, by all means
ask. (Bring a rhizome in bloom—there are over 50,000
irises out there!) Helen is always ready to “talk
American Iris Society (AIS), as do many plant societies,
maintains a system of awards and honors, determined by
qualified judges and based on the experience of those
judges with the variety as a garden plant in their
own region. AIS gives awards annually for 14 classes
of iris. You can see examples of all but three of those
at Phoenix Flower Farm. NOTE: Our neighbor south of Geneva,
NY, Dana Borglum was honored with the highest award for
Siberian irises, the Morgan Award, for his ‘Lake
Keuka’. We carry ‘Lake Keuka’ and several
other Borglum irises, which are indeed fine.
|There is also an active local affiliate of AIS which
does a show each year (June 7 in 2003) and offers tours
and other events. If you join AIS (which has sections
devoted to each class of iris) through the Farm we will
give you a $10 gift certificate and some free irises to
offset the cost of membership. Please also let us know
if you would like a reminder of the annual sale by the
CNY Iris Society, in July. You can also go to the AIS
website for more information on irises, and to locate
affiliates in other parts of the country.
all know there can be “worms” in paradise.
In iris heaven, the “worm” is an iris borer.
We have a detailed care sheet on irises at the Farm. The
short answer to preventing borer damage is plant hygiene—cleaning
up and disposing of leaves in the Fall, and observing
your plants after bloom for signs of borer before it reaches
the rhizome (toe, tuber where food is stored). Only if
you have a massive borer problem should you resort to
an approved pesticide—Merit is now recommended--for
one season, but it is much better to prevent the problem
by good garden practice. Armed with knowledge and vigilance,
you will not find it difficult to keep the borer under
control in a normal sized garden. If you occasionally
find a young borer it doesn’t mean you’re
a bad gardener—irises growing wild along our rivers
are always a source of infection. That’s why you
keep your eyes open during the summer.