Thursday, May 28, 2009

Variegated Iris

Often gardeners are thought of as being frugal individuals. After all, gardeners recycle kitchen waste into compost, grow and put up their own food, and share and swap plants and seeds with each other--all frugal activities.

But there is another side to gardeners. For, while we will happily scour the discount bins post-season in hopes of scoring cheap seeds and plants past their prime, we will also spend rather recklessly if we find something unusual and rare. How frugal is that?

Case in point: the variegated iris. I had to have it. I don't recall what I spent for it when I bought it a couple years ago--maybe $30 or so, but I do recall it was a large-sized container and I cringed inwardly. It seemed like a lot of money at the time, and it's not THAT exotic or rare. However, since I knew I wanted it, I squelched those second thoughts as quickly and mercilessly as I do Japanese beetles on my roses. I have not regretted it.

In fact, if I wanted to, I could justify the expense and consider it money well-spent. The foliage on this plant is a spot of sunshine in early spring, and it lasts well into summer. The cheerful purple flowers are a mid-spring delight. Like other irises, the variegated sort multiplies freely. I expect to be dividing them in another year or so. Frugal!

Right now, this is the only variety of iris in my garden. I longingly peruse catalogs and the offerings of fellow gardeners, but I hesitate to indulge. While nothing can beat the form and splashy color of irises in the spring garden, they tend to have a relatively short bloom period. And the foliage, especially on bearded irises, gets ragged after a while. Because of this, I haven't quite figured out how to work irises into my mixed flower bed.

While visiting in southeast Ohio last weekend I was invited to tour a private garden which featured long rows of heirloom irises in a rainbow of colors. It was stunning, to say the least. I didn't ask what was in the beds the rest of the year, and I wish I had. I might have learned how to better work this old-fashioned beauty into my own garden. Variegated Iris photo by JulenaJo.


  1. A variegated iris is on my shopping list. I have not found one yet. I am going to a plant sale this morning, perhaps I will find one there.

  2. I have looked at these variegated iris for some time. The foliage is striking. I keep waiting to find a sale o a 'deal'. We gardeners are frugal;) I do have quite a few TB iris and like you say the bloom time is short. Then there are the usual spring rain storms that turn the blooms to wet kleenex. Still, I enjoy them and they don't require much maintenance in my area.

  3. I found a variagated iris at my local garden centre in Montreal for $14.95 and thought eek so expensive but I just love them. I pass a house along my dog walking route and he has three of them they look wonderful. So maybe I shall indulge - what the heck! life is way too short. I am cheap in other ways - getting clippings and division from friends so why not.

  4. Carolyn, do! It's a very attractive plant and it does multiply. Thanks to all of you for your comments and for reading. Good luck locating one, KeeWee! Marnie, you're right. They are EASY!