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Re: Species for Beginners

My nominations for the best, most useful, and most adaptable species:

I. versicolor--remarkable variation in color, garden adaptability, and
hardiness at least to Z3.  I suspect that versicolor or hybrids involving
it are going to be a major division (like siberians) in a few decades.

I. tectorum--almost weedy here in central Virignia in both sun and light
shade, self-seeding freely in rich organic soil.  Probably not hardy north
of Z6.  Easily grown from seed and you can isolate some splendid forms that
way.  Very nice white variety is available.

I. pseudacorus--spectacular in a wet place, with leaves up to 5' tall.
Flowers are shades of yellow.  Can also do well in a border but will not be
so robust.  Hardy to Z3-4, and naturalized over large areas of the USA.

I. cristata--forms mats in woodland gardens.  Trouble-free.  Very short
period of bloom, though.  Only a few selected forms available, these
usually weaker than native-collected plants.

I. fulva--the only  red species.  May be hardy to Z5.  Has a relatively
long period of bloom.  Many variants, from brick-red to yellow.  Does best
with lots of moisture and organic soil.

I. foetidissima--the only iris that grows well in shade.  Beautiful glossy
foliage is often freeze-damaged.  Flowers are spuria-like, nothing to get
excited about.  The seed pods open to reveal bright red seeds, which cling
to the pods.   Self-seeds freely for me.  Probably not usable north of Z6.

I. typhifolia--a newly introduced siberian from China (seed available fromt
the  SIGNA list).  Like a smaller, more graceful I. siberica or sanguinea,
but blooming very early.  Some in my garden tread on the heels of the
pumilas!  Probably Z4?

I. pumila--tiny dwarf that keeps on giving.  Seems to like heavy soil and
good drainage, very nice between rocks.  Short bloom season can sometimes
be spoiled by a few rainy days.  Easily grown from seed, highly variable.
Probably Z3-4?

That's my list.

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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