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CULT: How I feel about the great unknown

Hello, All,

Each morning as I check my email to see if anyone else has provided 
potential identities for  my unknown irises, I am reminded of how much I 
enjoy these particular plants and the special place they hold in my 
heart.  Our dearly departed Fred Stephenson used to urge me to eliminate 
all the unknown irises from my iris beds. I could understand his 
reasoning, as it came from the perspective of a commercial iris 
background.  Unknown irises have little to no value for a commercial 
seller.  They aren't marketable as anything but inexpensive landscape 
plants, yet they take up just as much space, fertilizer, water, and labor 
in the garden as the more profitable named cultivars.

I, however, have a very different perspective on my unknown irises, and I 
would never deliberately rid my garden of a single one.  Whereas named 
varieties can be easily replaced if they should meet an untimely end in 
one's garden, a lost unknown is lost forever.  And because most of my 
unknowns are historics, I embrace the alluring possibility that my beds 
may cradle rare treasures from the past that exist only here - treasures 
that someone somewhere is eagerly seeking and that are my responsibility 
to keep safe until discovered and given their proper recognition and 

How likely is it that my unknowns are, indeed, precious to anyone but me? 
 Probably not terribly.  But it's the possibility and the mystery of 
these plants that make them so irresistible.  Do I really want to know 
their true identities?  Yes and no.  It's a bit like finding an old piece 
from your great grandparents' house in your attic. As long as you don't 
take it to an antiques expert for appraisal, you can hold dear its 
priceless potential. 

So, my tough old unknowns who grow circles around their more modern and 
thoroughly known counterparts will always hold their places in both my 
heart and my garden.  And if someone from the "Antique Iris Road Show" 
should appear on my doorstep with $10,000 in hand for a start of unknown 
#56, I won't be complaining.


USDA zone 3b, AHS zone 4 - northern MN
clay soil

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