"Pay attention to the world." -- Susan Sontag
Gold Standards and Purple Falls

Gold Standards and Purple Falls

From “Iris” in The English Flower Garden by William Robinson:

“The Iris is one of the oldest of our garden flowers, in many forms too, but… it has come to us in greater novelty and beauty in recent years….

“The old Irises of our gardens are usually of the Germanica class; there is much variety among these groups, and they are very hardy and precious, and excellent for the adornment of gardens and even walls and thatched roofs, as we see in France, the Iris of this great group having a valuable power of thriving on such surfaces as well as on good soil.

“There is a group of waterside and water-loving Iris, much less seen in our gardens than the above, and some of them not yet come to us, but of great value. They are allied to the common yellow Iris of our watercourses, but are taller and richer in colour, the golden Iris (aurea), Monnieri, and ochroleuca being the best known so far, and very free, hardy, and beautiful plants they are, thriving, too, almost anywhere, but best in rich, moist soil….

“Then there are the brilliant purple and gold Iris reticulata and its allies, little bulbous Irises, for the spring garden, early and charming things, many beautiful; Irises that flower in winter and early spring, like the Algerian Iris; others happy in Britain on warm soils and warm corners, and some for the rock garden, like the crested Iris; and the many pretty forms of Iris pumila, of some of which edgings were made in old gardens….”

From “Variegata” in A Guide to Bearded Irises: Cultivating the Rainbow for Beginners and Enthusiasts by Kelly Norris:

“Variegata: An iris with yellow or near-yellow standards and darker falls of brown, red, or purple…

“Named for Iris variegata, this distinctive bicolor pattern is well represented in all six classes. In tall beardeds, cultivars include ‘Jurassic Park’ (Lauer 1995), ‘Mine’ (Headrick 2004), ‘Kathy Chilton’ (Kerr 2006), and ‘Born to Please’ (Rogers 2006)….

“The original pattern of yellow and brown still colors many irises in the MTB class but has probably tired just as many gardeners because of its limitations. I mean really, how many ways can you do yellow-brown-red in variation before it becomes a little trite? But jaded eyes aside, the variegata pattern makes great art in the landscape. The pattern plays off the familiar colors of yellow and purple in other plants, while jazzing up the color display more than something white or pink might.”


The irises in this series have some similarities to those I posted previously as Brown Iris Mix — but I separated these out because they have a more distinct variations between the colors of the standards and the falls. Shades of gold and yellow-gold (rather than brown) dominate the standards, with purple tones filling the falls. Admittedly the distinction is a little ambiguous, but you may also see more stippling through these flower petals, suggesting that they are different variants than those in the earlier batch. There is a reasonably good chance that some or all these irises would be correctly identified as Iris variegata L. — often referred to as a “Hungarian Iris” in some parts of the world — but (as we sometimes say here) nobody knows for sure….


Until I found the first quotation about irises that I posted above, I was unaware of the practice in France of growing irises on rooftops. If you would like to see some examples — which may also include other European countries where irises are grown up high — click here. And if you’d like to see some additional irises in color schemes like those I photographed, they are Jurassic Park, Mine, Kathy Chilton, and Born to Please, from the second quotation above.

Thanks for taking a look!


    1. Dale

      Yes, they are! Overall a great year for iris photography, since the gardens I visit had apparently planted a slew of new ones I had not seen before — a couple of acres of them!

      Thanks for the comment!

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