'I'm always looking for the Hows and the Whys and the Whats,' said Muskrat, 'That is why I speak as I do. You've heard of Muskrat's Much-in-Little, of course?'
'No,' said the child. 'What is it?'
- The Mouse and his Child. Russell Hoban.

Go here to find out more.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Bearded Irises and Flag Irises

What's the difference between bearded irises and flag irises I hear you* ask?
All irises (named the latin for 'rainbow' because they come in so many colours) have six petals.  Three stand up - the 'Standards', and three point down - the 'Falls'.

Flag irises are types of non-bearded irises.
Most common in gardens are the German bearded Irises (Iris germaninca).  They have a fuzzy 'beard' on top of each of the falls.

Here's a bearded iris in a rich browny plum:

'Granny's' bicolour', 'plicata' bearded iris from Ngaio Street.
('Bicolour' because the falls are a different or darker colour to the standards.
'Plicata' because there are stippled, dotted or stitched lines darker on a lighter ground.)

Granny's bearded iris in my garden.

A 'haft' showing above the beard, between the 'standards'.  It is connected to the top of a 'fall'.
A 'self' coloured bearded iris showing what 'luminata' means - there are no 'plicata' marks.
'Self' coloured is one solid colour.
Bearded irises are catagorised based on size. Varieties of Bearded Iris:
 Miniature Dwarf Bearded Iris
Dwarf Bearded Iris
Intermediate Bearded Iris
Border Bearded Iris
Miniature Tall Bearded Iris
Tall Bearded Iris

The beardless irises have no fuzz. Varieties of Beardless Iris:
Siberian Iris
Japanese Iris
Louisiana Iris
Dutch Iris
Blue Flag Iris
Yellow Flag Iris

Siberian Iris Iris sibirica 'Butter and Sugar'
Like most of the siberian irises,
this has very well-behaved leaves
which form a tidy clump when not in bloom.
Image from here
Japanese Iris - there are three kinds, but outside Japan, I. ensata is usually the one referred to.  Distinctively flat-topped with short standards.

Japanese iris, Iris ensata 'Chitose'
Image by naruo0720

Louisiana Irises (I. hexagonae).  There are five species native to Louisiana.  Most of them like damp feet.
Here is one.
Iris nelsonii.
Image from, and specialist discussion here about this group

 Blue and yellow flags also prefer damp ground.  You can see the standards lie flatter and the hafts are more obvious.

Iris versicolor, or blue flag.
(Origin: North America)
Image from here

Iris pseudocorus or yellow flag.
(Origin: Europe, North Africa, Britain)
Image from here
Finally, two more of the approximately 300 species to be found world-wide.
The stunning Black Iris of Burma:
Iris Chrysographes, or black iris
(Origin: South China and Myanmar)
Photo from here
And a very ruffled Tall Bearded iris:
 Iris Germanica 'Sea Power'
Image from here.

Another view of the bearded iris my daughter bought me a few years ago.

If you want to learn all the iris terminology, here's a good list
And here are some more lovely arty images of irises from all around the world.

* This post is mostly for my benefit, and that of my daughter who has recently moved into a lovely old house and has renewed interest in irises.  But I hope you enjoyed it too!


  1. Such lovely flowers, and your explanation of the features is excellent. I recall my mother winning a prize for her Golden Iris. There is a Siberian Iris that has the same name as I have - not named after me but just someone with the same name. One day I will live somewhere chilly again and grow them.

    1. Thank you Louise. I guess Perth is a bit dry for Siberians. Could you leave the hose on in one corner of your garden? Seems a pity not to grow a flower with your very own name!

  2. I love that black Iris, and also the dark purple one. We have quite a few different ones, some very 'blousy' and loud, others quite discreet. I'm always pinching bits of ones I like.

    1. They are certainly not too difficult to acquire Cro. I have just planted another 10 today, bought on our NZ internet trademe. And yes, they black is rather amazing! I can imagine it with

    2. ... one of the paler ones like 'Butter and Sugar' as a backdrop.

  3. Fabulous photographs.

    1. They are very easy to photograph looking fabulous Alden! Naturally photogenic I guess!


Spam will go in the incinerator. All other comments are gratefully received. Communication is what makes the world go 'round.