Saturday, March 13, 2010

Iris... The Bearded Beauties

Heirloom Iris, Snowballs, and Stars of Bethlehem

One of the most lovely spring beauties has arrived at the garden party this past week. The stunning Iris has entered, dressed in her finery with her accompanying fragrance that is both sweet and sultry. She comes to us with early, mid, and late blooming varieties; if all three are planted, the garden will embrace a splendid show for a month or more. Perfect as a cut flower, they will provide a dazzling arrangement which lasts a week or more. Since the small buds on a stem will open while vase-bound, simply remove the older ones as they become spent and thus increase the life span of your flowers.

The name Iris comes from the Greek word for rainbow. The unusual shape of the flower makes it easily recognizable; it has three sets of three petal-like parts. The lower set, called the 'falls', flare out and hang down and the fuzzy caterpillar-like appendage on the fall is called the beard. The three upper segments curve up forming a frilled dome. The three curved 'style branches' cover the stamens in the center. The entire structure is amazing.

The Iris appeared on the scepter of the Egyptian ruler in 1500 BC and it is also carved on the brow of the Sphinx. The design is the symbol for North on the compass. The Iris is sometimes called the Fleur-de-lis, French for 'Flower of the Lily'. It became the emblem for the Kings of France in the 1100's and King Charles V of France adopted three golden Fleurs-de-lis on a field of blue as his coat of arms in the 1300's.

The exact science of the medicinal value of the Iris, although known about, has been lost over the centuries. However the American Iris Society has actively promoted advancements in rediscovery of the ancient purposes of the flower. The dried rhizome of certain bearded Iris, called the 'orrisroot', is still used in medicines, powders, and perfumes.

Colors cover the spectrum and appear in countless variations. Many of the blooms have different colors in each of the three sections. From rich coffee and white, shades of deep blue and vibrant yellow, to purest white with a tinge of apricot…the combinations are breathtaking,

Our own Hugh Stout is a national treasure and important in Iris and gardening circles across the nation. Mr. Stout has scientifically created astonishing cultivars available at Dancingtree, located at 432 NE 70th St. in Oklahoma City. Plan to visit while the Iris are in bloom.

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