The Iris Is believed to be among the oldest of cultivated plants. The flower was named in honor of the Greek goddess of the rainbow. In classic Greek mythology Iris was the messenger of the goddess Juno (Hera).
She carried messages from the gods to earth along a multi-coloured pathway that shone in the sky after rain. In ancient times it was believed that whenever the rainbow appeared, Iris was descending to earth and that she would gather the souls of women to take back to Heaven.
The association between the feminine life force and the Iris remains to this day. The Iris is still the traditional flower to plant over a woman’s grave to insure peace and future rest of her soul. The Egyptians considered the Iris as a symbol of power.
Masses were used to adorn the brow of the Sphinx and they appeared frequently in the wall paintings of several temples.
By the Middles Ages herbaceous (German) Iris were commonly known as “Flags” or Flag Iris, as they came in every colour combination In the rainbow.
Another European variety became immortalized as the Fleur de Lys, or “flower of Louis”. There are at least 200 species all native to the northern temperate zones and thousands of hybrids created all over the world.
They can be divided into rhizomous varieties with thick, fleshy, creeping rootstock (rhizome) and bulbous species. Rhizomous varieties can still be planted but are best moved right after flowering in late spring and summer.
Now is an excellent time to plant the bulbous (Xiphion) species. These include Dutch, Spanish and English Irises.
The powder blue, angular Dutch “Wedgwood” often blooms in late winter and is followed by many colourful Dutch hybrids. The slightly taller, thinner Spanish then follow. English iris with heavier, broader petals bloom into early summer.
These are all hardy, reliable bulbs which are largely pest and disease free. They demand a sunny, well-drained soil enriched with well-aged manures and compost, blood and bone, bulb foods and/or lime.
To eliminate the problem of fungal Infections avoid high nitrogen foods, strong, fresh manures and soggy, heavy soils.
Professional Iris Growers recommend the following fertilizing and spraying routine to achieve the highest success especially with Bearded Irises:
In the Southern hemisphere: sprinkle Superphosphate around the bulbs or tubers March/April; in July/August drench the plants with a Copper-based spray; use Shield Systemic Fungicide/insecticide to eliminate Aphids and most fungal diseases; apply Taratek 5F to control Brown Spot.
In the Northern Hemisphere: sprinkle Superphosphate around the tubers September/ October; in January/February/March drench the plants with a Copper-based spray; use a Systemic fungicide/insecticide to control Aphids and brown Spot
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