Monday, June 24, 2013

An Iris Grass cannot Crowd out

As gardeners, we tend to think that plants like best to grow in rich loam with no competition from other plants. Of course, this is the ideal setting for many, but not all. A  few years ago I noticed I had some small iris growing and even spreading in the grass just outside the garden proper. I did not know where that iris came from and what it was until last year when a friend identified it for me.

First, I thought they had to be native since I did not remember planting them, and there was no garden here before we came. It was a meadow where cows had been grazing for decades. There is a small native iris around here, Iris lacustris, but it is smaller than my mystery iris, and tends to  grow in drier places.

Last summer we had the visit of two knowledgeable gardeners, and one of them took a picture of this iris to a meeting of the Iris Society where someone was able to tell him that it was Iris sintensisii, of the Spuria iris group.
Iris sintensisii

Where it came from remains a mystery, but the most likely explanation is that I started it from seed I got in a seed exchange and planted it where it is now growing. However I have no recollection of doing it, and it would have gone against my instinct to plant it in the middle of thick grass, even if this is obviously where it wants to grow!

It covers a small section of a slope which is very wet at the bottom (at least in spring and fall), but drier at the top. Apparently sintensisii can grow in both situations. Perhaps I planted it near some Siberian irises I have naturalized in the wet part, and it slowly migrated to higher ground.
It is an attractive small iris, and it produces and unexpected effect growing as it does in thick grass. I am glad it found a place where it likes to grow. It must have taken several years to migrate on its own to where it now prospers. For over ten years we came here only on weekends, and I probably did not notice it for several years. You only notice it when it is in bloom as the leaves are just like grass.


  1. Lovely Iris Alain. I enjoyed reading about it's journey to blooming in that spot.

  2. Yes! Years ago our aunt gave us a little bag of seeds. We put them in a drawer and forgot them for several years. Our Aunt passed away before we planted them. We forgot them again until a tall slender leaf appeared. It took them a season or two to bloom and they were---small iris! We haven't collected seeds from them, but they have broadcast their seeds into other parts of the garden. Thick grass does not deter them. We have given away the tubers (?) and transplanted many of them ourselves, in thinning. We call them Aunt Laura's iris.

  3. They must be the same thing. The expert said there was no common name so for yours the name Aunt Laura's iris is the most appropriate. These plants you associate with people you know or have known are always the most interesting. With these plants, a tour of the garden becomes a visit with friends and relatives. They can also be strangers. Our old house had belonged to keen gardeners. I never met them but I have many of their plants which make me think of then and of the old house.

  4. Very pretty. It looks a bit like iris reticulata, one of my favorites. I like it growing in the grass!

  5. You are right, they do look like Iris reticulata, just a smidgen bigger.


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