Irises--the rainbow flower

Available in an infinite range of colors, irises are magnificent periennel garden plants. These plants get their name from Greek rainbox goddess, Iris, and her robe of many colors.

'Each spring, as the tightly rolled buds on the irises in Billie Adams's garden begin to unfurl, a smile spreads across her face. ... she's remembering her dear friend Mary Shields, who offered her a few clumps of these hardy perennials more than 25 years ago...'

(Visit Billie's garden)

Irises are a diverse genus that include about three hundred species. Thanks to extensive hybridization by horticulturalists and botanists, iris are now available in exotic dark colors, all shades of purple, spotted, speckled, or striped in odd and unusual ways, irises are a most outstanding plant.

Irises : a gardeners encyclopedia
Claire Austin ; foreword by James W. Waddick.
Portland : Timber Press, 2005.
"More than 1100 photographs reveal irises in every imaginable colour from deepest purples, blues, and reds to strong pinks, yellows, and oranges through to pastels in every colour tone. This wide-ranging collection illustrates the diversity of this genus and includes irises with striking foliage, reblooming capability, and scent." "The main section of the book is devoted to the popular bearded irises. It features both historic and modern irises of all sizes, from the delicate miniature dwarf bearded varieties to the stately tall beardeds. Here you will find arilbreds and aril irises, which are ideally suited for gardeners in the warmest zones. The beardless section recommends spurias, Siberians, Louisianas, Japanese, and Pacific Coast irises along with over 200 species irises ideal for garden use. A section on the distinguished bulbous irises completes this comprehensive encyclopedia." "Cultivation advice, information about the plants' breeding history, and ideas for using irises with other plants in the garden make this the perfect one-stop reference for iris enthusiasts everywhere."--BOOK JACKET.
Pamela McGeorge & Alison Nicoll ; photographs by Russell McGeorge.
Buffalo, N.Y. : Firefly Books, 2001.
Focusing on irises, a flowering perennial plant, in the home garden, this comprehensive guide includes the practical info on the history, cultivation, garden design, and growing more than 120 varieties. All illustrated with 95 full color photos.
Iris : the classic bearded varieties
Claire Austin ; photography by Clay Perry.
New York : Viking Studio, 2001.
From the myths and medicine of ancient Greece to the fleur-de-lys emblem of medieval and Renaissance France, irises occupy a timeless niche in our imagination. The endless diversity and color combinations of the bearded varieties, above all, have made them a gardener's dream. Iris offers detailed information on seventy of today's best varieties of bearded iris, and on their planting and care. White, yellow, purple, crimson-the blooms in this gloriously photographed book capture the extraordinary elegance and allure of a plant prized throughout the centuries as the personification of the rainbow. Iris makes a wonderful gift for the gardener planning the planting season or for well-furnished coffee table.
The Louisiana iris ; the taming of a native American wildflower
the Society for Louisiana Irises ; contributing editors, Marie Caillet ... [et al.].
Portland, Or. : Timber Press, 2000.
Louisiana irises have been hybridized from five species of "Iris whose boggy native habitats have largely been destroyed. Horticulturists have created an incredible range of hybrids in a variety of colors, forms, and sizes. They have proved adaptable to a wide range of soils and climates, needing only sun, ample water, and neutral soil to thrive.
The gardener's iris book
William Shear.
Newtown, Conn. : Taunton Press, c1998.
Irises bring color and elegance to a garden and are surprisingly easy to grow. In this book designed for the home gardener, William Shear, a 40-year veteran of iris growing, shares his expertise in choosing, planting, growing, and propagating exquisite irises. All of the essentials on iris care are carefully and simply explained, along with tips to ensure a stunning display from healthy plants. Starting with the tall bearded iris, the book features iris types that will grow in almost any condition--dry, wet, shady, or sunny. Specific cultural advice for the most desirable and adaptable iris types allows gardeners to choose the plants best suited to their region of the country. Lavish photos by renowned garden photographer Roger Foley will foster a love of timeless irises in every gardener.
Irises : a practical gardening guide
Karen Glasgow ; photographs by Yvonne Cave.
Portland, Ore : Timber Press, 1997.
A beautifully illustrated introduction stressing irises for mild climates (the book was originally published in New Zealand), with descriptions of important species, information on soil & cultivation requirements, discussions of propagation, pests, & diseases, & suggestions for using irises in the landscape.

Take a close look at an iris and you will see three sets of three petal-like parts. The lower set, called the falls, flares out and hangs down. The upper parts, known as standards, curve up into a dome. The three upright petals and three drooping sepals of an iris are symbols for faith, valor, and wisdom.

Bearded iris are those with the thick falls. Beardless irises, originally native to Asia, often bloom after many of the bearded. Aril irises, often grown in warmer climates, have been hybridized with bearded irises to produce taller plants with large blooms.

Iris popularity

Appear in Vincent van Gogh's paintings 
Is Tennessee's state flower
Symbolizes heroism in Japan
Used in perfumes & medicines

Iris grow throughout the temperate regions, ranging from miniatures a few inches tall to giants of severl feet. By choosing several types, irises can bloom throughout the growing season. Some are 'rebloomers', blooming more than once per season

Join the many Missouri gardeners who are experimenting with irises--the 'rainbow' flower.

Article by: St. Louis Public Library staff