When many people hear the word Iris, they immediately think of large showy bearded iris flowers.
Normally blooming in late May and early June (or this year in mid-May due to spring being two weeks ahead of schedule), these lovely plants are familiar to just about everyone.
Not quite as popular, but still well liked, are more than 300 additional species of iris, including the delicate flowers of Dutch, English, Spanish, unbearded and crested, those that grow from bulbs and others that grow from rhizomes. All are from the Genus Iris and the family of plants called iridaceae.
New species of iris are being discovered all the time. In fact, a new, pale blue iris was recently discovered in South Africa near Saldanha on the West Coast. Immediately placed on the endangered species list, this species is said to bloom for only two weeks a year in September. Last year, the World Wide Fund for Nature South Africa was auctioning off the naming rights for this plant. (The last I heard, a couple from Cape Town won the bid, but I haven't found any information concerning the name they ultimately chose).
Gardeners love iris, no matter what the species or color. But whoever said they never found an iris they didn't like, obviously never met Iris pseudacorusis, commonly known as sweet flag, water flag, yellow flag or, according to the husband, simply ''flags.''
These plants are going to be the death of me, and it's my own fault.
I brought these plants home several years ago, long before I knew what they were. We had just put in the garden pond and I was looking for water plants that would add to the woodland design.
It began with one little plant in a three-inch pot. No one warned me and I still believe the employees at the garden center were chuckling a little when they saw me carrying the little pot to my car. This was a case of impulse buying without research. It grew slowly the first year and I at first, I thought it wasn't going to live past that first season.
At the beginning of the second season, I remembered the tiny plant in its equally tiny pot and was pleased it had made it. By the third season, I began to have doubts about my choice of location for this plant, so I moved the - by now - small bunch into another spot in the garden, a few feet from the flagstone edge of the pond.
By the fourth year I noticed a mysterious growth of large, iris-type leaves growing in practically a straight line alongside the entire length of the pond. I was curious, so I waited to see what would happen and by the time mid-summer arrived, the stalks were nearly six feet tall and as thick as my arm. It was as though someone had injected these monster iris with steroids. Although they bloomed with gorgeous, bright yellow flowers, after the flowering finished, we were left with giant plants that were totally out of place unless we were planning a jungle.
This time I decided to do a little research and discovered the true growing habits of water iris. I found they will grow either in or out of water. They have a short blooming period that makes having them in the garden less appealing. They are not native to the U.S., which doesn't influence what I plant, but makes sense as to how bullish they can be, along the lines of kudzu, sparrows and Japanese beetles, also non-native. But the most telling piece of information I found clinched my decision to rid my garden of these plants, they are noxious, invasive weeds that are banned in some states.
Digging these plants turned out to be a chore. Since they form dense stands like cattails, with roots that can be up to 12 inches long, my row of plants weren't cooperative about giving up this spot. Even after the husband managed to wrestle the plants from the ground and toss them into a wet area well behind our property, sprouts continue to come up each year from tiny bits of roots that were likely left behind.
A few days ago, I glanced over at the woodland garden along the edge of the pond and recognized those yellow flowers blooming on 18-inch stems. I suspect they are in their second year of growth, which means I'd better get them out this year or next year it will be next to impossible.
The battle has begun.