Recently, as flowers began blooming, I was surprised how many different kinds of irises we had. Well, I only have five, but they are of a wide variety. I've been considering planting irises in the yard lately, although I've been told how finicky they can be. It all seem like a Catch-22 to hear about. If you don't divide irises every few years, they will stop blooming - or when you divide irises, they may not bloom the next spring. I think there is some truth to these statements. I have seen irises get overcrowded and they definitely don't bloom as much - I walked by the house tonight and there only one bloom out of probably close to a hundred irises. I have also had experience with irises not blooming until the second spring after they were divided - and I've also had ones that bloomed the next spring. I think it really depends on how soon after they finish blooming do you divide them. The soon the better, probably.
The first iris we had was here when we bought the house. The first spring there were only a few, so they didn't get much attention. A couple of years went by and I noticed them again - I really liked them for some reason. I looked them up and found out they are Yellow Flag Irises - Iris pseudacorus. I was pointing them out to my grandmother and she was very familiar with them. She said when she and my grandfather would go out in the boat, she would see them growing on the banks. I dug some up and put them in the bog as an experiment, but it was a bust. Not that they did badly - it was just the end of their blooming and they got droopy and I didn't have the patience for it. Last year I marked the handful (less than ten) we had so I could dig them up later and move them, but that didn't happen - I haven't decided where to put them. They came up this year and I had about fifty of them - talk about invasive! Yes, they are on a number of invasive species lists around the country, but I'm keeping them.
I've got two different bearded irises, but I don't know what kind. I tried looking up some of the irises and there were just too many that I gave up. These two are a good representations of how finicky irises can be. The first one I got because someone was throwing them out. It was October 2008 and someone was selling/buying a house on my route. The junk started to pile up on the street, including a rotting half whiskey barrel planter full of irises. I threw it in my truck and took it home. I spent the evening digging and dividing the irises, ending up with at least forty plants. I found a spot in the yard for them and planted them within a couple of days. Much to my surprise, they bloomed the following spring.
I'm not sure when I got more bearded irises - it seems like it wasn't too much later than I got the others. One of my coworkers brought them in and left them in the break room for someone to take. They sat there several days before I decided to take them. They may have sat at our house for a while longer before I found a place for them in the yard. Maybe it seems like I got them so much longer ago, because they didn't bloom the first spring. I finally started noticing buds on them before Easter just recently. When we got back from vacation, they were in full bloom - sort of a creamy white color.
The next two irises are both water irises - sometimes they are called Japanese Irises, or Louisiana Irises - I'm not really sure. There was a lot of non-specific information on irises that I found. The first water iris I bought from Dream Gardens in March 2008, right after I finished the bog. I bought it a little too late, because it had just finished flowering for the year - I had to wait until spring 2009 to see it flower, and when it did, it was so nice to see - sort of a deep purple flower - the woman at Dream Gardens said that you can tell the color of the flower by the color on the leaves. In this case she was right, but I don't know if that's true all of the time. It's putting out buds again this year and about to bloom. I'm planning to divide it afterward and find someone who wants some of it. (In the photo, the flower isn't open completely. To see a photo from last year, click here.)
The other water iris I don't know much about. I got some small plants that looked like irises at a koi club plant swap summer 2008. They never bloomed and I took a few to one of the Park Circle plant swaps, where an old lady questioned whether they were really irises at all. All I could say was, "don't they look like irises to you?" I planted them in a few small pots and put them in the top of my pond filter/waterfall where I've ignored them until recently. I was looking for something to do in the yard the other evening when I decided to clean the dead stuff out of the pond filter. I was pulling dead iris leaves and water hyacinth out when I noticed buds on the plants. Once again I was completely surprised that they were about to bloom. I had written them off, but it seems that over the last couple of years, they've matured into large irises that have almost taken over the filter. These need to be thinned out too - but not until they finish blooming. I've seen these flowers for the first time and they are a paler purple than the other ones.
I take it back - that I only have five different irises. It just occurred to me that I was leaving some out. I just remembered that this past summer that Robin and I took a "Spontaneous Craigslist Roadtrip". I may be the first person to use this term, but not the first to actually do this. Imagine reading a craigslist post titled "Curb Alert" - someone has thinned out their irises and put them on the curb. Robin comes home and I say, "how do you feel like driving to Summerville to get plants off the side of the road?" Robin replies, "when do you want to go?"
We put them in shopping bags so we didn't get too much dirt in the car, and when we got home I put the bag in the back yard, intending to do something with them in the near future. I haven't touched them since! They've obviously rooted in the ground now and they're putting out new growth, but they're in the same place I dropped the bag more than six months ago. I've got some yard work to do this weekend, like pulling weeds in the back yard - I'm planning to do something with those irises as well.