Tag Archives: iris

Trip Report: Iris Gardens at Will Rogers Park

The Oklahoma Orchid Society show and sale takes place at the Will Rogers Park in Oklahoma City.  While we were there for the orchid show, we decided to wander around the park a little.  The Oklahoma Iris Society maintains a nice Iris Gardens that was in full bloom for our visit.  All of the plants were neatly labeled so we knew what we were viewing.

Greatest Show On Earth
Act Surprised


Rayos Adentro

There were probably about 35 varieties in bloom.  This last one was Christie’s favorite.


This has been a good year for our own little Iris garden at home.  We might have to add a variety or two for new colors next year.  This variety, Splurge, would be a good candidate.

Dietes seedlings

I decided I wanted to try some more tropical African irises, to accompany my Fortnight Lily (Dietes iridioides), but I couldn’t find many plants for sale.  So I ordered some seeds of the Peacock Flower (Dietes biflora).  Starting plants from seed is a little new to me.  Or maybe I should say, successfully starting plants from seed is new to me.  I have tried quite a few seeds over the years and haven’t had much luck.  Some recent success has encouraged me to try some more.

Dietes bicolor seedlings
Dietes bicolor seedlings after 1 month

In just under a month my Dietes bicolor seedlings began to appear.  The amazing thing about these little guys is that they look just like the mature plants, but much smaller.  They already have a little fan of leaves.  For size comparison, check out the pill bug (Armadillidium vulgare) next to the seedling below.  Yes, they are that tiny.

Dietes bicolor with pill bug
Dietes bicolor with pill bug for size comparison

These plants are not hardy in my zone, so they will have to spend the winters in the greenhouse.  But they can be grown outdoors just 1 zone south of me, and they are considered drought resistant and good for xeriscaping.  So I might have the opportunity to plant some of these soon in a garden in southern Texas.  More about that later.

I’m really glad I had luck with these iris plants.  It is an encouraging success that gives me the option of growing my plant collection without having to spend a lot of money.  Now, I wonder how long it takes these guys to become flowering size…?  If you would like to see the flowers, you can view pictures here.

New iris bed in bloom!

Last year I transplanted all of our Irises from various places in the yard to one central location around the light post in the middle of our backyard.

Two tone iris
Two tone iris - Sorry I don't know the name.

At the time, it looked pathetic, but I knew all of those rhizomes would sprout new leaves and fill out the area. This year, the irises definitely filled the area with green. There weren’t as many blooms as I would have expected, but we did get two Irises to bloom.

My pups sure know how to stop and smell the iris
My pups sure know how to stop and smell the irises
Simple white iris
Simple white iris

I’m hoping for considerably more to bloom next year!

My new favorite Iris: the Fornight Lily

While on our recent vacation to the Pacific Northwest, we visited the Volunteer Park Conservatory in Seattle, Washington. It was such a cool conservatory with so many interesting plants that it felt like I had been in charge of acquisitions! I plan to write 5+ posts on this little conservatory alone. You can look forward to posts talking about about the Marantaceae (Ctenanthe, Calathea, Maranta, Stromanthe), Carnivorous plants (Sarracenia and Nepenthes), Fuchsias, Bromeliads (including Tillandsias), Orchid Cacti (Epiphyllums), Euphorbias, and some oddballs (like Dischidia and Hydnophytum).

However, this post is about one single Iris plant – Dietes iridioides. This beautiful plant from the Iridaceae (Iris) family has very rigid leaves with the firmness of a Yucca. The plant stands tall at about 4 feet and forms a thick clump in any and all available space. It was apparent that the plant like its environment in the conservatory and since coming home I have learned that it is considered mildly invasive in the areas where it is hardy – zone 8a or greater.

Dietes iridioides bloom
Dietes iridioides bloom

I am tempted to talk my parents-in-law into buying some of these plants to use for landscaping their new property in Denton, TX, as I think it would be hardy there. Regardless, I’ve got to get some for myself and will keep it in a pot in my greenhouse. Seeds are very easy (and cheap) to come by on ebay, but I’m still not really confident in my seed-rearing abilities. Maybe this a plant worth the cheap experiment.

Dietes iridioides
Dietes iridioides

The plant is called “Fortnight Lily,” “African Iris,” “Cape Iris” or simply “Wild Iris” as a common name. But I imagine there are probably a good 20-30 different Iris that go by that name. The genus Dietes is native to southern and eastern Africa (including Ethiopia!), and consists of four to six species – one of which occurs outside of Africa, on an island off the coast of Australia.  This particular plant (Dietes iridioides), was formerly placed in the genus Moraea, but was moved to Dietes because it is rhizomatous (it has a rhizome).  I had to get help from a staff worker at the conservatory to finally find a label on one of the plants and it read “Dietes vegeta – Fortnight Lily.”  The wikipedia article on Dietes tells me that this plant is really Dietes iridioides and I confirmed that information with Tropicos.

There are so many different types (genera) of Iris.  For a long time the only type of Iris with which I was familiar was a bearded Iris – a very common flowerbed plant in this part of the country.  I’ve always thought they were very nice flowers.  But then I discovered Dutch Iris (Iris x hollandica), which my grandmother was growing.  With more slender leaves and flowers, and a deep royal blue bloom, this quickly became my favorite Iris.  Just a couple of years ago I discovered Apostle Plants, or Walking Iris (Neomarica gracilis).  And again my favorite Iris was trumped!

I find that every new Iris I discover quickly becomes a favorite plant of mine.  Plants that are in the Iris genus are more familiar, but the “fringe” genera within the Iridaceae family are so much more interesting and beautiful to me.  The Iridaceae family consists of more than 2000 unique species from 66 genera, including some not as obviously related to the common bearded Iris, like the Crocus genus.  Many of these plants grow in sub-Saharan Africa (south of the Sahara desert) and quite a few in the Americas.

A place for Irises

Christie and I live in the house in which my mom grew up.  My grandparents were the first owners of the house and my grandmother lived here until she passed away, about 6 and a half years ago.

My grandmother planted a number of lavender, mixed white and purple & solid white Iris in the front flowerbed.  They have multiplied over the years and there are quite a few of them now.  Christie’s grandmother also really likes Irises and had given us some a couple of years ago that we planted in the same front flowerbed.  Whenever my wife and I decided to rework the front flowerbed – removing several bushes and installing the garden waterfall – we chose to relocate most of the Iris.  They were too tall for the flowerbed and did not have the right feel.

Purple and white Iris in front of our waterfall.
Purple and white Iris in front of our garden waterfall.
White Iris and Purple Iris (background) in our front flowerbed.
White Iris and Lavender Iris (background) in our front flowerbed.

Of course, we couldn’t just throw them away.  But at the time, we couldn’t really find a good place for them.  We dug them up, tossed them in buckets and they sat in the shade under a tree for over a year.  Without soil and sun they were almost dormant.  Thankfully almost all of them survived and a couple of them even bloomed in that state.

Rusty pink Iris given to us by Christies grandmother.
Rusty pink Iris given to us by Christie's grandmother.
Royal blue/purple Iris given to us by Christies grandmother
Royal blue/purple Iris given to us by Christie's grandmother

On one of our road trips last Spring we visited the log cabin home of Sequoyah, who invented the Cherokee syllabary (cousin to the alphabet).  The grounds of this National Historic Landmark are very well kempt.  My wife was in awe of the rings of Irises around their trees.

Iris at Sequoyah's cabin
Iris planted at Sequoyah's cabin

Finally, we had found inspiration for all of our beautiful Irises!  Christie thought that the Irises would look neat around the base of our Sycamore, but I wasn’t sure if they would bloom very well there since they would be in such dense shade all day long.

Lonely light post
Lonely light post ready for work. Pip is scoping out our new Iris garden.

In the middle of our backyard is an old lamp post that was once fueled with natural gas.  The gas has been disconnected, but we would like to have it wired with electricity some day.  We decided that this lamp post would look really nice with Iris planted around it.  In addition to being pleasing to the eye, it will help prevent kids blindly running into the lamp post while playing in the backyard (something I’ve done before), if there is a bit of a flower bed around it.

Completed Iris bed
Completed Iris bed

What do you think of our dedicated Iris bed?  A couple more Iris pop up in our front flowerbed around the waterfall every year.  As soon as they are finished blooming, I will relocate them to this location in the backyard with the others.