April showers have brought May flowers… to the blog. Today’s post is part of a May Bouquet series focused on flowers one might find in a bouquet. Y’know, leading up to Mother’s Day next Sunday. Think of these posts as daily reminders with wonderful suggestions on ways to honor the mothers in your lives.
Today we will consider the iris. Actually, I will just mention the tip of the iceberg when it comes to irises because there are hundreds of varieties and hybrids of the Iridaceae family. These plants come in a range of sizes, colors and flower shapes, but all of them are perennial monocots that will grow from bulbs or creeping rhizomes. They bloom in spring (whenever that happens to come to your area) and their tall foliage stays a lovely green color in the fall and spring. The dog days of summer and early fall are the drabbest for irises as their leaves die back. During this time from August to October is the best time to dig up and divide the rhizomes for transplantation to another location, sharing varieties with friends or simply thinning out your current stand of irises for better blooms the next spring.
These plants thrive near ponds and other low-lying areas that always seem damp. It’s no surprise then that a group of irises dubbed ‘the Louisiana irises’ are our state’s official wildflower. It’s not a single species of iris, but six- I. brevicaulis, I. fulva, I. hexagona, I. giganticaerulea and I. nelsonii. Each of these is found in different ranges along the Mississippi River Basin, but Louisiana hosts them all.
Another common species in Louisiana gardens is the yellow iris, Iris pseudacorus. However native this species may appear in modern Southern water gardens, it is not native to this area and can be prolific enough to be considered invasive. It does have important redeeming characteristics from a functional standpoint and is known to remove heavy metals from wastewaters. Thus, it makes a beautiful and practical addition around sewage treatment ponds and other wastewater sites.
Another class of irises is the bearded iris, which contains a ridge of raised fuzz (beard) along the center line of the lower petals that fall open toward the ground. The exact function of the fuzz is unknown, but likely serves as an attractant for pollinators like bees.
You can find these blooms in some bouquets, but I recommend enjoying them as whole living plants in your landscaping. The rhizome segments are available for sale in garden centers and online nurseries. They don’t require a lot of special care and come in a wide array of sizes, shapes and colors.
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