Friday, May 23, 2014

Queen of the Irises

ProfessorRoush has a favorite iris.  Hand's down, no question about it, a definite favorite.  I grow all colors and types of irises.  I maintain approximately forty different varieties that still survive my neglectful gardening.  I'm partial to the purples like 'Superstition', so deep they are almost black.  I fancy the bright sky blue irises such as 'Full Tide'.  I love the soft pink refined splendor of 'Beverly Sills'.  But it is bicolored and vivacious 'Edith Wolford' that holds my iris heart.

I fought long and hard to obtain 'Edith Wolford'.  Every year at the local iris sale I would rush to her spot in the alphabet first, only to be beaten to the spot by a purse-swinging senior lady or to find that all the divisions had been sold privately before the public sale.  A friend finally took pity on me and set aside a fan for me.  Or, as a second friend pointed out, I acquired 'Edith Wolford' by cheating.  A gardener can only sustain the bruises from heavy handbags and bony elbows a few times before he must take preemptive action to end the abuses.

'Edith Wolford' was a 1984 introduction by the late Ben Hager,and she has received all the top American Iris Society awards including the Dykes Medal of Honor (1993), the highest award given.  Hager was the owner of Melrose Gardens in California, and he also hybridized the above-mentioned 'Beverly Sills' (1985 Dykes Medal of Honor).   'Edith Wolford' is the perfect contrast of soft yellow standards and gentle blue falls.  Her beard is a brighter yellow, a beacon to the insects who would steal her pollen.  She even occasionally reblooms.  'Edith Wolford', however, does not always photograph well since cameras tend to make the soft blue falls more purple than they really are.  For example, the top picture on this page was taken on my "good" Canon camera, and the picture at the right was taken on my iPhone.  Both are a little purple-tinged, although the top picture does more closely capture the quality of the canary-yellow standards.

I won't entertain negatives in regards to 'Edith Wolford' in my garden since she grows so well here, but to be fair, other gardeners dismiss her as sickly, sparing of her blooms, slow to grow, and prone to rot.  To those who would be her detractors, I will mangle a quote from the The Hunger Games and suggest, "May your odds with irises be never in your favor." 


  1. Bearded iris bloom in March in my Zone 8b garden...if they bloom at all! I've got one lovely pink and purple one that blooms well but the others have been planted for 3 years and have beautiful, healthy looking foliage but I thus far no bloom. Any idea where I may be going wrong, Professor? I planted them so long ago I don't even remember the name of the varieties I have planted! Roses, daylilies, and coneflowers are all in the same area and bloom fine.

    1. Tough to tell without looking, but in my experience, they don't bloom for one of four reasons; not enough sun (they need at least 6 hours of full sun a day), too much nitrogen, planted too deep (plant so tops of rhizomes are just at soil surface), or they're overgrown and need divided. The last one is not likely the problem for you, so check about the other 3.

  2. Thanks for the advice! Of the reasons given, I'm thinking I may have planted them too deep. I'll do a little re-positioning and see if that corrects the problem. If so, I'll have to go on a hunt for Edith Wolford. She's beautiful!

  3. Tweety6235@aol.comMay 29, 2017 at 10:17 AM

    I was fortunate enough to receive Edith from a Master Garden acquaintance. This beauty is my favorite of all the irises with which she gifted me. Mine has spread and blooms beautifully. I am forever grateful to my benefactor and have shared with my sisters.


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