Thursday, July 30, 2009

Butterfly Iris New Hybrids, Varieties And Colors

By Thomas Fryd

The Spuria iris, long relegated to the neglected back of the perennial border, emerged as the glamorous "Butterfly Iris" in the 1950's with development of new hybrids. The familiar white, blue, or yellow spurias, dependable and hardy though they were, were not far removed from the wild Species. Almost unnoticed, a few breeders patiently worked for the development of new varieties, added new colors, form, and true branching.

For those who are not familiar with the butterfly (spuria) iris, here is a brief description of the species: The spuria iris is one of the apogon (beardless) irises native to the northern and eastern hemispheres. Because its seeds are enclosed in an air filled parchment like membrane which permits them to float, they have migrated to river mouths and along shore lines. In color, the wild species are blue, white, or yellow, all with a yellow signal patch.

Some of the blue species have slightly purplish tones and a subspecies whose right to membership in this group is often questioned is the wine-colored dwarf "graminea." The flower resembles that of the Dutch iris but the average height is three feet and the stalks carry three or four pairs of buds, often opening a flower of each pair at once.

Spuria irises bloom after (in the North) or with (in the South) the bearded iris. The large size of the flowers (up to seven inches in diameter), height of the sturdy stalks, number, heavy substance, and keeping ability of the flowers make them unsurpassed for florists or flower arrangers use.

They like, but do not demand, full sun, good drainage, and plenty of food and water with a good garden soil to improve there growth. After they bloom they prefer to bake through the summer months, refusing to produce good bloom or increase next season without this summer dormancy. Mature rhizomes are temperamental about being moved and should be transplanted during their summer dormancy or when new growth begins in the fall. If moved at the wrong time and not place in a better garden soil they will sulk for a year or two. The foliage dies back after being lifted unless the roots are undisturbed by moving a ball of soil with them.

Like all members of the iris family, butterfly irises are subject to virus and bacterial (rot) infections. Good cultural practice and attention to their requirements make control of these factors easier than other iris species.

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