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Re: Species iris for beginners

I should have included I. graminea on my list since it does very well here
and as others have said, is very easy from seed.  For me, the foliage
disappears in midsummer and comes back in the fall.  This is also true of
most spuria cultivars here. Admittedly I grow only a few.

Iris lactea (oxypetala) does well here but is not a very spectacular plant.
The foliage is extremely tough and rather like a wide grass.  I have moved
some plants to very dry, stony soil since some authorities say it can take
such conditions.

Rodney Barton's problems with I. verna are understandable.  About 10 years
ago I obtained several large clumps of this iris from a supplier of native
plants in North Carolina.  Those planted in clay soil (in November)
survived the winter, bloomed and then died.  Those planted (also in
November) in sandy, strongly acid soil among azaleas growing under mature
pines are still thriving today without any further attention.  Reading
reinforces the idea that an acid soil  of light texture is needed.  Verna
is a delightful little iris blooming about the same time as cristata, but
with more typical iris form and generally looking bluer.  There is a strong
orange signal but no crest; it's usually placed in its own section, Vernae.

I wonder about its relationship to the European/Asian I. ruthenica.  I have
tried this from seed twice without any germination.  Plants ordered from
Niche Gardens last year turned out to be a perfectly ordinary I. sanguinea
(got my money back without any arguments).  Does anyone grow this iris and
if so, are you willing to trade for some verna?

Musing about microclimates recalls the series of articles in SIGNA by
Panyoti Keliadis (sorry if I've mispelled the name) describing how with
attention to soil type and microclimate, nearly every kind of iris can be
grown in the Denver Botanical Gardens.  These are well worth reading.

Best wishes, Bill
William A. Shear
Department of Biology
Hampden-Sydney College
Hampden-Sydney VA 23943 USA
phone (804) 223-6172
FAX (804) 223-6374

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