“The great season for tall bearded irises begins in late April and early May in places such as northern Mississippi, two weeks later in Washington, and progressively later farther north. Fortunately irises have not lost their fragrance through many generations of breeding, and every iris grower knows and revels in the variety of scents. Some are like sweet peas, some like ripe grapes, and some have an indefinable sweetness not like anything else….
“They like full sun. They bloom magnificently in slight shade, with six hours of sun a day, but not so freely as in full sun. They like rich soil, preferably a sandy loam, though clay loam, even acid clay loam, does perfectly well provided water does not stand on the plants for hours after a rain….
“The spring after planting there will usually be one bloom stalk, and the second year there will be five, say, and in the third year perhaps ten or twelve. They are best dug up after the third year, divided and replanted using three young vigorous rhizomes set a foot apart in a triangle, the fans all pointing the same direction.”
“Frail and delicate in appearance, the Algerian [iris] is really a tough which flourishes best in a sort of rubbish heap of its own. If you plant it in rich soil, and allow it so much as to catch sight of a lump of manure, its crop of leaves will be indeed extravagant, but blossoms there will be none. But if you plant it in contemptible rubbish such as brick-bats and gravel, with the especial addition of any old mortar rubble which the builders may have left over, and which is rich in lime, you will get a crop of flowers… to fill every glass you may have available.”
This is the second of two posts featuring irises of the blue and purple kind; the previous post is Irises in Blue and Purple Hues (1 of 2), and my first iris post for this year is Black Iris Variations (and Hallucinations).
I’m fairly sure that the last six photos are those of an Algerian Iris (officially, Iris unguicularis), and it was growing in conditions similar to those described by Vita Sackville-West above: next to a crumbly stone wall and rooted in a combination of old wood chips, gravel, grass, and sand. There were only a handful of irises like this in the gardens — and I was glad to have captured them, as they are probably gone by now.
Thanks for taking a look!