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Re-blooming Bearded Iris - Twice as Nice!

May 1, 2013
Bearded iris have been hybridized for centuries for their beautiful blooms and their large array of colors. But it was not always so. Indeed if you saw some of the original species bearded iris from Europe you might not be impressed. But from those originally selected wild iris, and thanks to the meticulous work of countless hybridizers, we have today tens of thousands of bearded iris cultivars. But these are not all the same either, neither in color, form, or habit. So where is a person to start?

That's where a nursery like Missio Terra comes in. We have done the hard work of selecting out superior bearded iris from the thousands of possibilities. And what has been our criterion? Well, first and foremost, we look for re-bloom tendency. As you may already know, most bearded iris bloom for around 3 weeks in the spring of each year (and the weather had better be good). Then they are done. All you get after that will be lots of leaves and new fans for the next year's bloom. We feel that most bearded iris are beautiful to behold (but not all mind you), so why not grow an iris in your garden that you can enjoy multiple times throughout the season? They call these iris re-bloomers.

A few hybridizers have tried to grade the re-bloom ability of certain cultivars, but for the most part, this has not been done well or consistently. For some nurseries and collectors if an iris re-blooms at all during the year (even 1 autumn flowering stalk in a large cluster) it is considered to be a re-bloomer. But we feel that this is unfair and misleading. We have seen many bearded iris being sold as re-bloomers that we would not offer. We only consider a bearded iris cultivar to be a re-bloomer if it has a strong and consistent (year after year) re-bloom in the fall. With these selections (such as iris 'Blatant' or iris 'Cantina' for example) you can expect a typical fabulous spring bloom followed by a strong re-bloom in September or October. So you can expect 2 distinct seasons each year where the iris will be showing off in your garden.

There are very few iris cultivars that are classified as consistent and strong re-bloomers. We have most of them, at least the prettier ones. And we are always looking for ones we haven't seen yet to add to our collection. These are the bearded iris that are listed as strong re-bloomers in our catalog section. But there are a few bearded iris that stand out as even better performers than this!

Some re-blooming bearded iris have a stronger re-bloom ability than just spring and fall. Some will bloom spring though fall with very little break in between. These rare and few selections are highly prized by those who know them. Iris 'Harvest of Memories' and Iris 'Feedback' are in this group. In milder climates I have even seen them blooming in December!

So if there are actually bearded iris that bloom so much better than their relatives, why even bother with those that bloom only in the spring? That is a good question that we don't have a good answer for. We suppose that people just fall in love with a particular iris when they see it blooming in the spring, and they have to have it. Or it could also be that the better ones (re-bloomers that is) just aren't being offered to the public. We believe that this is usually the case, unfortunately. But either way gardeners from coast to coast are not enjoying their iris for more than a few short weeks a year. What if there is a late freeze? or a hailstorm? or worse? Then the whole season might be lost to a freak weather pattern.

We are sure you are getting the picture by now. If you plant re-blooming bearded iris you get the best of both worlds. You get a great spring show followed by repeat performances throughout the growing season. So why plant anything else? We hope you agree.

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