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May VIP - Black Bearded Irises

Each month, we highlight a "Very Impressive Plant" turning heads in the SF Bay Area.


The Elegant Iris: a Timeless Garden Gem

Irises are one of those flowers that seem to evoke a sense of both nostalgia and wonder. Their unique shape, vibrant colors, and rich history make them a beloved addition to any garden. If you're looking for a plant that offers both beauty and hardiness, the iris might be the perfect choice for you. Although they've just closed for visiting for the season, we are lucky to have Nola's Iris Garden here in the Bay Area. They are a local nursery and garden where you can see thousands of irises in person. It isn't too late to order your irises now and plant them this fall! 


Nola's Iris Garden 2024

A Symbol of Hope and Royalty

Irises have long been a symbol of wisdom, hope, and faith. Irises were planted on the graves of women in ancient Greece to guide them on their journey to the afterlife. In France, the fleur-de-lis (a stylized iris) was a symbol of royalty, power, and perfection.



Types of Irises 

There are hundreds of species of irises, offering a stunning array of shapes, sizes, and colors. Here are some of the most common types:

  • Bearded Iris (Iris × germanica):  The most popular type, characterized by their fuzzy "beards" on the lower petals. They come in a dazzling range of colors and bloom in spring.

  • Siberian Iris (Iris sibirica):  These elegant irises have slender, grass-like foliage and delicate blooms. They are known for their hardiness and come in shades of blue, purple, and white.

  • Japanese Iris (Iris ensata):  These water-loving irises feature large, flat blooms in a variety of colors and patterns. They prefer moist environments and bloom in late spring to early summer.

  • Louisiana Iris (Iris ser. Hexagonae): These irises thrive in humid climates and come in vibrant shades of yellow, red, pink, and more. They are a bit more delicate than other types.

Iris Growing Tips 

Irises are very easy to grow and are great for tough spots with lots of sun and poor soil. These low-maintenance plants can even be grown in your "hell strip" where others may fail to thrive. Here are some tips:

  • Sunlight: Irises love full sun – aim for at least six hours of direct sunlight daily.

  • Soil: Plant them in well-drained soil. Heavy clay soils can be amended with organic matter to improve drainage.

  • Planting: Plant iris rhizomes (the thick, fleshy roots) in late summer or early fall, with the top of the rhizome slightly exposed to the sun.

  • Watering: Irises are drought-tolerant once established, but regular watering during blooming season is best.

  • Dividing: Divide irises every few years to prevent overcrowding and ensure continued healthy blooms.


Designing with Irises

Black Irises bring a touch of gothic elegance to a pastel cottage garden, add a bewitching charm to an herb garden, or provide a striking accent in a black and white color scheme.


The Iris: A Timeless Beauty

The iris adds a touch of elegance and history to your garden. With the wide diversity available, you're sure to find irises that perfectly suit your style and garden needs. Whether you plant a single iris as a striking accent or create a vibrant iris bed, these captivating flowers are guaranteed to bring joy year after year.



Cultivars Featured in Images:

  • Blackout

  • Men in Black

  • Sambuca

  • Satin Satan




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