Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Heritage Iris Varieties

These varieties are from Old House Gardens, and the photos are theirs. I hope it's OK that I post them - given that I link to their website. They have an interesting was of shipping iris - they grow them through the winter, then clean the plants and ship in the Spring, for same-spring bloom. This is what they say: "They’re freshly dug the day we ship them, they can take light frost, and to bloom their first summer they must get growing again ASAP. If necessary, store in the fridge for 2-3 days or “heel in” briefly in moist sand or soil." They take orders now, and payment is with the order. There is faith on my part that I'll be alive and growing plants in April. If not, then it doesn't matter. I'm trying not to obtain any two that are too similar to each other, and aiming for classic form and fragrance when possible. My plan is to have the heritage irises in a bed of their own, separate from the modern hybrids. That way they stand out on their own without being overwhelmed by the flashier new hybrids, and I can appreciate their fragrance as well. These may also serve as sources for hybridizing, if I feel so inclined. There is the issue of diploidy (most old varieties) and tetraploidy (most new varieties) making them genetically incompatible so I'm not sure where I will go with that. Caprice, developed in 1898, reportedly strong grape fragrance. Caprice is also described on the Historic Iris Preservation Society website as having a "sweet grape fragrance". Florentina, collected in 1500. Not a variety, but a species. Unclear from the site about fragrance, although that's one of the reasons I'm buying it. From the Old House Garden's site, "since at least the 1500s its rhizomes have been dried and sold as orris-root, a prized ingredient in herbal medicines and perfumery."  Pacific Bulb Society states this iris is 27 inches tall (good, I do't want more super tall varieties that dominate the garden and fall over in the rain), is a natural hybrid, not a species, and is fragrant.  Also a species, and the description includes, "Fragrant and tough, it was grown in ancient Rome, carried east on the Silk Road..." Indian Chief, 1929. Not as old as the first two, but still a heritage variety. HIPS does not mention fragrance. Iris Dalmatica 1597. From the web site, "Pallida Dalmatica, 1597 ...tall, pale lavender, tough as nails, with a Concord grape fragrance that, as Elizabeth Lawrence wrote, “fills the borders and drifts into the house.” (Also from a 1597 description)... “exceedingly sweet” scent.

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