Sunday, February 9, 2014

spuria iris

'Ila Crawford' in 2009

When I moved from my old house, I thought I would miss it terribly. It turns out that I really don't. Yes, there are things that I miss, like the wall-mount faucets and the tumbled marble in the bathroom. What I really thought I'd miss were the plants. It's true, there are some plants that I miss, but most of them I really don't mind not having, even thought I loved them terribly at the time. It's okay. It's time to move on.

'Belize'  in 2009
But I discovered something at my new house, and that is that some of the plants that I struggled to grow in the old house, do much better at the new one. It looks like one of these is the spuria irises. At the old house, the shaded courtyard was not to their liking, and they produced a few fans, each one on the end of an elongated rhizome, and occasionally put out a flower if I was lucky. At the modern house, I had brought one that I had planted in a pot at the old house as a last ditch effort to get it to grow. It wasn't happy, two fans after a few years, no flowers. This year, a year after being planted in a sunny spot under a canale, a dozen fans in a compact clump are coming up. It's looking promising.

If you don't know spuria irises, they look like dutch irises on steroids, the plants 3-4 feet tall, and flowers in exotic colors (of course I mostly like the blue and white ones, but they do come in red, yellow, brown, mostly yellow actually). They grew in enormous clumps on the neglected roadsides where I grew up in California, and I was excited to discover that they are quite hardy, and can be grown here in New Mexico as well as many parts of the US. The original species comes from Southern Europe to Afghanistan, so they are fairly appropriate to this climate (temperatures are similar, but Afghanistan gets most of the precipitation in spring, whereas we get most of our rain in late summer). Perhaps of the irises, the aril irises which come from "semidesert areas of the Near East and central Asia" (Sunset Garden Book) would be more appropriate.

'Arts Alive?' 2014

Even though we had snow three days ago, it's looking like spring. I raced over to the old house at 7 this morning, and dug out the spurias (I'm selling the house, and frankly, the landscape looks better without a bunch of scraggly iris leaves scattered around).

'Betty Cooper' from

 I had to take this image of 'Betty Cooper' from the web, because I have no photos of it. I vaguely remember that it might have bloomed once.

'Art's Alive' in 2009

I think I had one flower from Art's Alive since I planted it 10 years ago. I hope it does better at the Modern House. I think it is the one that I moved in the pot, so we will see in about 3 months. 'Belize' is looking pretty strong, so I just took a few fans. I find this flower incredibly beautiful, with a vibrant color and graceful form, almost like a wild iris. The leaves last all summer, but the winter appearance is ragged. The leaves die back, but keep several inches of green above the ground (most spurias die completely back in the winter). The incredibly tough leaves are hard to cut, and leaving the green parts just makes for an unruly cut. It might be worth leaving the leaves whole and just mulching on top when growth starts.  'Ila Crawford' (top) is barely alive now, with 2 fans of very small weak rhizomes, but I expect that the full sun it's going to get will get some growth onto it. I don't expect any of the new transplants to bloom this year. Unlike bearded irises, these take a year or so to get established when they are transplanted. It will be worth it.

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