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Graham Rice on Trials

Updates on trials and awards from the Royal Horticultural Society by Graham Rice

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Superb spuria irises

Posted by Graham Rice on 16 Dec 2009 at 02:24 PM

Iris 'Hickory Leaves' - Award of Garden Merit. Image: ©RHSAmongst the many thousands of summer Iris cultivars, it's usually the flamboyant bearded irises that get most of the attention. But the recent trial of Spuria irises again proved what valuable perennials they are.

Spuria irises are tall, up to around 1.5m/5ft, and while the flowers lack the rainbow colours and patterns of the Tall Bearded Irises their colours can be intensely penetrating in colour. They also have a more imposing habit than bearded irises, their slender deep green foliage setting off the flowers well.

The trial of Spuria irises has just ended after three years and the results fall into two groups.

An Award of Garden Merit has been confirmed for ‘Hickory Leaves' (above). Raised by Dave Niswonger of Cape Girardeau , Missouri, who has been breeding Spuria irises for over forty years, the plant reached 1.1-1.3m/43-51in and carried vivid yellow gold flowers with the falls slightly deeper in colour than the standards. It reminded me of an improved version of the old favourite ‘Sunny Day'.

In the second group were three varieties whose quality was such that the Iris Sub-Committee recommended an AGM for them but the award could not be finally confirmed as at the time they were not yet available for sale to home gardeners. Availability is an important factor in finally confirming the award. These three Spuria irises whose awards are awaiting confirmation are 'Ambesten Sarah Alice', ‘Clara Ellen' and ‘Lenkoran'.

‘Ambesten Sarah Alice' is taller, reaching 1.5m/5ft, and a much paler almost primrose yellow toning to rich golden orange in the centre of the falls. Both falls and standards have a noticeable wave to the edges.

Iris 'Clara Allen' - a highlight of the recent Spuria iris trial. Image: ©RHS

Reaching 1.25-1.35m/50-53in ‘Clara Allen' reveals the brilliance of patterning which is possible in Spuria irises but which is seen less often than in bearded types. Basically bluish purple in colour, in the falls this is reduced to a band around the rippled  edge, the remainder being bold yellowish orange, veined in purple. The standards are purple with gold streaks and dark veins towards the centre.

Finally ‘Lenkoran' has more slender flowers, the standards in pale violet blue, the falls a slightly paler shade at the edge and yellow veined in purple towards the centre. It reaches 1.1-1.35m/43-53in.

All are easy-to-grow perennials enjoying plenty of sunshine and any reasonably fertile soil. When these final three become available, I'll let you know.


miranda said:

They look lovely!

The Oxford Botanic Garden had a stunning display of irises, in a single long bed, and when they all flowered it looked absolutely glorious. It really made me see them in a new light.

on 17 Dec 2009 at 11:55 AM

Graham Rice said:

Yes. Irises, above almost everything else, seem to look good en masse.

on 17 Dec 2009 at 12:26 PM

Foxnfirefly said:

I agree that the colours of those Spurias are really electric!!  So they only come in blues and yellows?  Are they re-bloomers??  

on 18 Dec 2009 at 04:26 AM

Graham Rice said:

They also come in white, all shades of blue and also of purple, there are some attractive bronze and rusty shades, plus some pretty pretty pastel colours. The flower parts are usually more slender than those of bearded irises. They flower in June and July.

on 18 Dec 2009 at 12:17 PM