Heirloom Bulbs & Garden History  •  Living Treasure from the Past
Dec
3
2015

Broken-Color Iris: From ‘Loreley’ to ‘Bewilderbeast’

Broken-Color Iris: From ‘Loreley’ to ‘Bewilderbeast’ – www.oldhousegardens.com

New to our catalog for delivery in April is ‘Loreley’, one of the most popular iris of the 20th century. Introduced in 1909, ‘Loreley’ was one of the first “broken-color” iris, a type that has become increasingly popular in recent years.

Unlike broken tulips whose stripes are caused by a benign virus, broken-color iris are irregularly splashed with contrasting colors due to a genetic mutation. Although at least one dates to the 19th century – ‘Victorine’ of 1840 – most early examples were probably discarded as misfits. The enormous popularity of ‘Loreley’, however, helped iris breeders begin to see these “flawed” iris in a whole new light.

Varieties with names like ‘Kaleidoscope’ and ‘Joseph’s Coat’ followed, but ‘Loreley’ remained the most popular broken-color iris until the elaborately patterned, purple and white ‘Batik’ was introduced in 1986. ‘Batik’ won the AIS’s top prize for iris its size and became a huge commercial success, opening the door for the scores of broken-color iris introduced since then, often with amusing names such as ‘Bewilderbeast’.

As our friend Mike Unser writes in his excellent blog post about the history of broken-color iris, “No two blooms are ever just alike, and they can create a very lively and exuberant effect in the flower garden.” To see for yourself, order ‘Loreley’ now for delivery in April!

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