A year ago a clump of Japanese iris (Iris ensata, above) appeared from behind a low growing cypress in the garden that borders the large koi pond. Submerged in shallow water along the pond’s edge are a variety of Japanese and yellow flag irises (Iris pseudacorus, below), so it is not too surprising that a few seeds have escaped to nearby dry ground. Also, it is unsurprising that this seedling clump does not closely resemble any other Japanese iris in the garden. While yellow flags come true from seed (and these have spread through the pond), cultivars of Japanese iris do not.
The flowers of this seedling clump are quite ordinary as irises go, though to my thinking none can be considered any less than extraordinary. The flowers are similar to the variegated Japanese iris, but the foliage is completely green rather than striped with white. Also, it is considerably taller than the lower growing variegated version, and in dry ground the iris is more vigorous than I would expect. Through hot and dry periods of last summer the foliage did not fade at all, and while I’ve had a few irises fail in either damp or dry conditions, this seedling clump appears quite content where it is. In all, despite its lack of pedigree, the iris is marvelous, though I have little doubt that it has no commercial appeal.
In one of the garden’s smaller ponds blue flag iris (Iris versicolor, above) has spread moderately between partially submerged stones, but this spot is more heavily shaded than the koi pond, and I suppose that conditions are not ideal for it to spread further. In shade the flowers persist a bit longer than in full sun, but the blooms of any of the irises rarely last longer than a week or ten days.
By planting yellow and blue flags, and a handful of cultivars of Japanese iris, one iris or another will be flowering with hardly a break for nearly two months. For me, a pond filled with colorful koi, surrounded by lovely irises is as good as it gets.
(Note : Care must be taken to contain seeds from yellow flag iris, which can invade native wetlands if rainwater is allowed to flow through the area where they are planted. Japanese iris has not presented this problem, though I’ve heard that it can be aggressive under some circumstances.)