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Re: Mystery heritage irises

  • To: Multiple recipients of list <iris-l@rt66.com>
  • Subject: Re: Mystery heritage irises
  • From: Bill Shear <BILLS@hsc.edu>
  • Date: Wed, 11 Feb 1998 07:30:34 -0700 (MST)

I think Mr. Pinchback is correct in suspecting that his heritage irises are
English irises.  Particularly the description of strong stalks, two feet
tall or more, and bloom in midsummer suggest English irises.  Also, English
iris would probably naturalize and be trouble-free in the climate of
Burnaby, while Dutch iris would not last long.

English irises are based on the species Iris latifolia, native to damp
meadows in the Pyrenees.  They need relatively cool moist conditions and a
humusy soil, while the Dutch irises dislike organic matter, and do best
with a hot, dry summer rest.

English irises are not readily available except by mail order from the
larger bulb dealers.  They are sold in the fall.  Most commonly mixtures
are available, but at least one company had four named varieties this fall
(McClure and Zimmerman). As with all bulbous irises, they are relatively

I saw beautiful, large clumps of English irises in southern Scotland last
summer; they obviously had been in place for many years and were
virus-free.  Most commercial stocks are badly infected with a virus which
does not seem to harm plant vigor, but produces purple streaks in the

I'm trying a small group of these irises here in central Virginia this year
and will report to the list on how they do.  In one previous trial some 15
years ago, the heat doomed them before they could bloom.  But the wonderful
clumps I saw in Britain made me want to try again.

Bill Shear
Department of Biology
Hampden-Sydney College
Hampden-Sydney VA 23943
FAX (804)223-6374

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