Sunday, March 20, 2011

An Iris by Any Other Name

Many years ago, when there were no garden paths or gardens of any kind surrounding my home, a friend gave me some walking iris plants to place beneath the oaks.

The lovely neomarica longifolia puts up a many bloomed spike of yellow flowers while neomarica gracilis bears single white blooms with a blue center. Over the years these plants have multiplied and been placed in many spots at My Garden Path. They have become hopelessly mixed together yellow and blue. Until they bloom each spring through summer I have no idea which is which. Many have been given to fellow gardeners but usually without knowing which color was being given.

There are still plenty of each color both in the front and back gardens. Each bloom only lasts one day, but there are constant replacements opening throughout the spring and summer seasons. When not blooming, the long slender spearlike foliage is still quite beautiful on its own. These lovely leaves are cold hardy and only had a few burned tips after this past winter's cold temperatures.

Last spring a new walking iris caught my eye. Neomarica caerulea 'Regina' has very large deep purple blooms with just a touch of yellow in the center. The long slender leaves are much darker green than the other walking iris in the garden so she really stands out from the crowd. I have also put this plant in an area all her own.

Another deep purple bloom is produced by the native blue flag iris, Iris virginica.  The one clump purchased last year has become three. 

I'm hoping these will multiply and bloom profusely filling up the space in the bog.  This plant is not a "walker" but is a clumper and I have read that it can be spread by seed.  The beautiful blooms last several days. 

Another plant that goes by the name of iris is the African Iris, dietes iridioides, also known commonly as Fortnight Lily.  These lovely white blooms with purple and yellow centers are suspended seemingly in mid-air and remind me of butterflies floating on the breeze when viewed from a distance.  This plant's blooms don't seem to last more than a day or two but a flush of blooms is produced at one time and then a rest period of a "fortnight" occurs before another flush of blooms. 

All of these plants with the common name of  iris grow, multiply and bloom well here in dappled shade under the oaks.  They have become a mainstay of my gardens and I love the way the blooms and slender leaves bend and sway with the wind. 


  1. Oh my gosh Nana ~ I love your blue/purple iris. I have the yellow walking and the African iris, but no blue. I bet it is wonderful to see these beauties lining your paths.

    Happy Gardening and Happy Spring,


    P.S. Thanks for the bday wishes.

  2. We are so lucky to have so many beautiful iris that do well here in Florida. I don't have that yellow one, but I saw it blooming in my mother's yard yesterday. I'm going to have to snitch a few. My flag iris is so gorgeous that I'm having a hard time taking my eyes off of it. My clump has expanded greatly, and I think I'm going to move some around when they finish blooming. Enjoy all your beautiful spring blooms.

  3. Wow, you have a beautiful and very diverse iris collection! Me? Not so much. Why are they all so hard to find in nurseries? Oh, that's right, they live in the pass-along universe. My mother once had the yellow walking iris, which she passed along to me four gardens back. I remember how quickly it spread. Hmmm... I'll have to see if she still has it. I just planted a blue neomarica last spring, but it didn't bloom in 2010. Yesterday, the blooms opened for the first time ever! : D Woohoo!

  4. NanaK: I still remember it was last year around this time, when I saw all these wonderful iris flowers from your and other florida gardeners' blog, and I just could not help wanting them ALL! Well, now I have the white African Iris, yellow african Iris (Dietes bicolor) and the Neomarica caerulea 'Regina'. Your other varieties are all so beautiful! Yes, even they don't last long, but they are pretty enough to earn the spot in my garden and the cold-hardy foliage is another added bonus.

  5. Really nice collection, Kay. They are so cheery to see in your garden this morning. The irises in Florida gardens signal the start of official spring. All of them flushing out in rythmn to the warmth.

    The only one I don't have is the blue flag. There isn't a wet enough area for them here. So the Louisiana Iris is my substitute. So fun to find out the right plants for our area... saves a lot of heartache.

  6. FlowerLady - These plants are some of my favorites as they spread easily and make a good background for so many other plants. Easy maintenance is my favorite characteristic in a plant.

    Susan - The yellow is actually my favorite because of the spray of blooms it has. I am so happy that my blue flag has multiplied. I'm hoping for it to fill in that boggy spot.

    Floridagirl - These plants are so carefree and cold hardy. The yellow take more sun than the others I think. You should stop by and grab some from me next time you come to the mall here. Seriously.

    Ami - I wish the blooms lasted longer but I agree with you that the foliage is nice in it's own right. These make good filler plants for my shady beds.

    Meems - I think the Louisiana iris are the prettiest in bloom, but I've never come across any for sale. I'm pretty happy with the blue flag and would like some yellow flag to go with them for that boggy spot I have.


Thank you for travelling down My Garden Path with me. I love hearing from you. Please leave a comment and share what is going on in your gardens.