Home

Iris: Lost Forever?

From America’s Expert Source for Heirloom Flower Bulbs
My Basket
My Basket

Though preservation is our mission, bulbs drop out of our catalog every year.

Sometimes it’s because the harvest was too small. Sometimes it’s because they’re widely available elsewhere and don’t need our help. And sometimes it’s because we’ve lost our only known source due to severe weather (cold, drought, etc.), health problems (a debilitating stroke), or economic woes (small farmers are always at risk).

The good news is that, in time, we’re often able to return these bulbs to our catalog. So here’s a list of many we’ve offered in the past. For an alert the moment they’re available again, subscribe to our free email newsletter. Or to find a similar bulb, try our easy Advanced Bulb Search.


Fall-planted:     Crocus       Daffodils       Hyacinths       Lilies       Peonies       Tulips       Diverse

Spring-planted:     Cannas       Dahlias       Daylilies       Gladiolus       Iris       Diverse


Page 1 of Iris: Lost?
1


IMMORTAL IRIS

Icons of the late-spring/early-summer garden, bearded iris are easy to grow and richly diverse. Give them full sun and average to well-drained soil and they’ll reward you for close to forever. We’ll send you 3 of our favorite heirlooms (a few possibilities are pictured here), all different, labeled, freshly dug from our Ann Arbor micro-farm, and great for zones 3a-8a(10aWC).

For more of each variety, order additional samplers. If you’d like to be notified the next time we offer this treasure, sign up for an email alert.


SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL

We’re big fans of smaller iris. They’re graceful, charming, and – at about two feet tall – combine beautifully with other perennials near the front of a sunny border. We’ll send you 3 of our favorites (a few possibilities are pictured here), all different, labeled, freshly dug from our Ann Arbor micro-farm, and great for zones 3a-8a(10aWC). Last offered in spring 2016. We’re building up stock and will offer it again sometime in the future. If you’d like to be notified the next time we offer this treasure, sign up for an email alert.


ALCAZAR, 1910

This famous iris is not only magnificently handsome, it’s also “a survivor par excellence,” to quote expert Cameron Hall, growing vigorously in old gardens and forgotten places from coast to coast. Introduced by Vilmorin of France, it was one of the first tetraploids, setting a ground-breaking new standard – taller, larger-flowered, and richly colored – for 20th-century iris. 38-40”, zones 3a-8a(10aWC), from our Ann Arbor micro-farm. Last offered in 2020. If you’d like to be notified the next time we offer this treasure, sign up for an email alert.


BLUE RHYTHM, 1945

Born in Mapleton, Iowa, this handsome farmboy went on to win the iris world’s highest honors, including the Dykes Medal in 1950. A silvery blue-purple that’s usually described as “cornflower,” it looks especially good with silver-leaved perennials such as lavender and Russian sage. And it’s deliciously lemon scented! 38-40”, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from Ann Arbor. Last offered in 2018 and we hope to offer again in 2021. If you’d like to be notified the next time we offer this treasure, sign up for an email alert.


BLUE SHIMMER, 1941

Richly “peppered” with tiny lavender-blue spots, this dazzling update on the classic plicata has a look of “utmost originality” (Schreiner’s, 1946). Vita grew it at Sissinghurst and it’s still widely offered in the UK – though not, alas, here in its native land. Nebraska-bred, delightfully fragrant, 30-36”, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from our Ann Arbor micro-farm. Last offered in 2018 and we don't expect to offer it again.


CAPRICE, 1898

“‘I smell ripe grapes!’ cried a freckle-faced boy” in Ella McKinney’s 1927 Iris in the Little Garden – but it was actually this richly fragrant iris he smelled. It’s richly colored, too, a pure, deep, glowing rose that drew me like a beacon when I first saw it at our local Farmers Market many years ago. Just 24-26 inches tall, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from our Ann Arbor micro-farm. Last offered in 2018 and we hope to offer again in 2021. If you’d like to be notified the next time we offer this treasure, sign up for an email alert.


COLONEL CANDELOT, 1907

With velvety falls of deep oxblood to burgundy, this small-flowered French iris was the “reddest” of its era, and it’s still a knockout today. Strong-growing and floriferous with a light fragrance that’s been compared to honey locust, it’s an iris that, as Lee Bonnewitz wrote in his 1926 catalog, “I believe all American iris lovers will be glad to own.” 30-32”, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from Ann Arbor. Last offered in 2015 and we hope to offer again in 2021. If you’d like to be notified the next time we offer this treasure, sign up for an email alert.


DAUNTLESS, 1929

With velvety petals of burgundy and rose, ‘Dauntless’ is one of the oldest and best of the so-called “red” irises. It was introduced by Nashville’s Clarence Connell in 1929, beating out ‘Indian Chief’ to win the Dykes Medal as the year’s finest iris. On “tall heavy stems,” its luxurious blooms “last over a long season” (Cooley’s, 1937). 34-38”, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from Ann Arbor. Last offered in 2019 and we hope to offer again in 2021. If you’d like to be notified the next time we offer this treasure, sign up for an email alert.


DEMI-DEUIL, 1912

After years of building up stock, we’re finally able to offer this unique little iris. Demi-deuil means “semi-mourning,” the period after full mourning when Victorians dressed in black and white, but by 1912 it was more commonly the name of a small, black and white butterfly. With its intricate filigree of darkest purple on white with touches of gold and brown, ‘Demi-Deuil’ is especially stunning up close, so be sure to pick at least one to enjoy indoors. 20-24”, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from our Ann Arbor micro-farm. Last offered in 2020. If you’d like to be notified the next time we offer this treasure, sign up for an email alert.


EDWARD OF WINDSOR, 1945

$223,000 – that’s how much a painting by English artist Cedric Morris sold for recently, but you can own this incredible iris he created for just a few bucks. It’s famous for being the first British pink, but it’s officially described by the AIS as orange. In truth its mesmerizing color is a bit of both, highlighted by pale purple and gold veining in the falls and vibrant tangerine beards. 34-36”, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from Ann Arbor. Last offered in 2018 and we don't expect to offer it again.


FLAVESCENS, 1813

Lauren Springer in Passionate Gardening tells of collecting a bit of this incredibly tough, moonlight yellow iris from “two shimmering clumps” at an abandoned homesite in Wyoming, way out in the middle of nowhere. “Perhaps someday,” she muses, “it will be all that remains of my house and garden.” (See a triumphant swath of it gone wild in Kansas.) Lemon fragrance, 30”, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), Ann Arbor. Last offered in 2018 and we hope to offer again in 2021. If you’d like to be notified the next time we offer this treasure, sign up for an email alert.


FLORENTINA, 1500

If I could grow only one iris, this might be it. Its color is a pale, luminous pewter – unique and ravishing. Its falls are long, like the ears of a basset hound. Its blooms kick off iris season. And its history is deep. Although modern scholars say it’s not the I. florentina or “white iris” of ancient times – now I. albicans – since at least the 1500s its rhizomes have been dried and sold as orris-root, a prized ingredient in herbal medicines and perfumery. Learn more here. Zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from Ann Arbor. Last offered in 2019 and we hope to offer again in 2021. If you’d like to be notified the next time we offer this treasure, sign up for an email alert.


FLUTTER-BY, 1924

With its lower petals held out at a jaunty angle, this profusely blooming little iris really does have the look of a host of butterflies. It was bred by the remarkable Grace Sturtevant of Massachusetts, a trained artist and “the world’s first woman plant hybridizer” (Mahan, 2007). Unfortunately, due to our very limited growing space we may not offer this little charmer again, so get it while you can! 24-26”, zones 3a-8a(10aWC), from our Ann Arbor micro-farm. Last offered in 2016 and we hope to offer again in 2021. If you’d like to be notified the next time we offer this treasure, sign up for an email alert.


FRANCHEVILLE, 1927

By Ferdinand Cayeux, perhaps the greatest iris breeder of all time, this big, stately iris features pale, rippled standards of lilac and fawn over falls of deep, velvety maroon shading to violet. Our stock of this rarity is very limited, and it will be years before we can offer it again, so get it while you can! 38-46”, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from our Ann Arbor micro-farm. Last offered in 2015. If you’d like to be notified the next time we offer this treasure, sign up for an email alert.


FRANK ADAMS, 1937

With its exotic blend of parchment, bronze, rust, rose, and oxblood, this intriguing iris adds a note of “unusual warmth and vibrancy” (Schreiner’s, 1946) to the early summer garden. It was bred in Elkhart, Indiana, by E.G. Lapham, president of the Elkhart Rubber Works, who swore that the irises he grew behind his factory weren’t a distraction but a “life-saver.” 38-46”, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from Ann Arbor. Last offered in 2018. We hope to offer this variety again in 2021. If you’d like to be notified the next time we offer this treasure, sign up for an email alert.


GERMANICA, 1500

This iconic flower could be called the original bearded iris. Fragrant and tough, it was grown in ancient Rome, carried east on the Silk Road, and by 1629 was so widely planted in England that Parkinson called it “the common purple flower-de-luce.” It’s also the iris immortalized by Van Gogh in his masterpiece Irises which sold in 1987 for a record-setting $54 million. 30-36”, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from Ann Arbor. Last offered in 2018 and we hope to offer again in 2021. If you’d like to be notified the next time we offer this treasure, sign up for an email alert.


GRACCHUS, 1884

At Wave Hill, the legendary Marco Polo Stufano championed hundreds of little-known but fabulous flowers, including this classic iris. Just two feet tall, it melds happily into perennial gardens where its luminous, pale gold standards over a lacework of raisin-purple give it a regal presence. Tough and floriferous, 20-24", zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from Ann Arbor. Last offered in 2018 and we hope to offer again in 2021. If you’d like to be notified the next time we offer this treasure, sign up for an email alert.


GREAT LAKES, 1938

There’s a lot more to this iris than a great name. It’s Canadian-bred, so you know it’s tough, its stems are tall and sturdy, and its profuse, handsome flowers seem to reflect the summer sky. Winner of the Dykes Medal, it was “unquestionably the finest of all blue iris” for decades (Wayside, 1954). With a fragrance that’s been compared to magnolias, 36-40”, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from Ann Arbor. Last offered in 2016 and we hope to offer again in 2022. If you’d like to be notified the next time we offer this treasure, sign up for an email alert.


HER MAJESTY, 1903

This pixie queen is an “exquisite shade of lilac-pink, almost old rose” (The Garden Magazine, 1917), but what really sets it apart is the rich tapestry of deeper rose that ornaments its falls. Plant it where you can enjoy that exquisite detailing up close, or pick lots of bouquets! Fragrant, 24-26”, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from Ann Arbor. Last offered in 2016. We offer a rotating selection of iris. If you’d like to be notified the next time we offer this treasure, sign up for an email alert.


INDIAN CHIEF, 1929

With velvety, wine-red falls and glowing standards of raspberry to bronze, this tall, striking, Jazz Age iris is one of the most colorful we grow. It’s exceptionally vigorous, too, thriving on neglect in old gardens everywhere and blooming even in part shade. By the good Dr. Wylie Ayres of Cincinnati, 32-36”, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from our Ann Arbor micro-farm. We offer a rotating selection of iris. If you’d like to be notified the next time we offer this treasure, sign up for an email alert.


LAVANDULACEA, 1854

Subtle and small-flowered, this rarely offered beauty will never be mistaken for a modern iris. It’s an intriguing blend of soft lavender shaded at the edges by even softer brown – yes, brown! – and brightened by a glow in the center that spills out on its golden beards. Due to limited space in our micro-farm, we’re offering it one time only, so get it while you can! Aka ‘Dove’, ‘Agnes Sorrel’, ‘Pluton’, ‘Rosamond’, and ‘Candicans’. 22-26”, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from Ann Arbor. Last offered in 2016 and we hope to offer again in 2021. If you’d like to be notified the next time we offer this treasure, sign up for an email alert.


MADAME CHEREAU, 1844

The most sought-after iris of the 19th century, ‘Mme. Chereau’ is tall, stately, and oh so lovely. Its elegantly long white petals are neatly stitched or feathered with purple along the edges in a pattern known as plicata. A truly landmark iris, it was bred by pioneering nurseryman Jean-Nicolas Lémon whose 150 dazzling introductions transformed iris from a wildflower into a garden superstar. Grape-scented, 36”, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from Ann Arbor. Last offered in 2013 and we hope to offer again in 2021. If you’d like to be notified the next time we offer this treasure, sign up for an email alert.


MONSIGNOR, 1907

Introduced by Vilmorin-Andrieux et Cie, the famous French seed company, this sumptuous iris features violet standards over deep, velvety, claret purple falls with vivid white reticulations and an orange beard. But popularity and survival depend on more than good looks, and ‘Monsignor’ – like many cherished pass-along plants – grows with great vigor and blooms abundantly. Fragrant, 28-32”, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from our Ann Arbor micro-farm. Last offered in 2018 and we hope to offer again in 2021. If you’d like to be notified the next time we offer this treasure, sign up for an email alert.


MRS. GEORGE DARWIN, 1895

The perfect size for bouquets, and luminous in the garden, this elegant small iris is named for Maud du Puy, the Philadelphia-born wife of one of Darwin’s sons. Although often confused with its sister ‘Mrs. Horace Darwin’ (which we offered last year), it’s laced with gold and purple (not just purple) and blooms later (extending the sisterly season). 24”, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from Ann Arbor. Last offered in 2018 and we hope to offer again in 2021. If you’d like to be notified the next time we offer this treasure, sign up for an email alert.


NEGLECTA, 1813

Although named in 1813, this wild hybrid of I. pallida and I. variegata was probably grown in gardens long before that. Today several similar clones are grouped under this name, all short and small-flowered with pale lavender standards over jaunty little falls that are richly veined with purple – and as the Biltmore Nursery catalog noted in 1912, “most desirable.” Due to limited space in our micro-farm, we’re offering this wild jewel one time only, so get it while you can! 20-14”, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from Ann Arbor. Last offered in 2016. We offer a rotating selection of iris. If you’d like to be notified the next time we offer this treasure, sign up for an email alert.


OLA KALA, 1949

The deep, warm, radiant yellow of this Dykes Medal winner continues to astonish gardeners nearly 70 years after it was first introduced by Jacob Sass of Nebraska. Its beards are orange, its tall stalks never topple, and it multiplies vigorously. In short, as its Greek name declares, it’s “all good.” 36-38”, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from Ann Arbor. Last offered in 2013. If you’d like to be notified the next time we offer this treasure, sign up for an email alert.


PERFECTION, 1880

“Well named,” wrote Nebraska nurseryman Charles Harrison in 1916, “tall and queenly, with a profusion of bloom of radiant and glistening purple.” Nearly a century later, iris expert Mike Unser agrees, saying ‘Perfection’ is “true to its name . . . with exceptional color, flawless form, vigorous growth” and even “beautiful foliage.” Flaring falls and splashes of darker purple on its standards add to its appeal. Due to limited space in our micro-farm, we’re offering it one time only, so get it while you can! 28-34”, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from Ann Arbor. Last offered in 2016. We offer a rotating selection of iris. If you’d like to be notified the next time we offer this treasure, sign up for an email alert.


PINNACLE, 1949

“Fresh, cool, flawless in its purity, and absolutely unique,” to quote its breeder Jean Stevens, ‘Pinnacle’ was a ground-breaking iris, the first to combine white standards with yellow falls. It soon became immensely popular, too, and experts say it would have won the Dykes Medal – if only New Zealand-bred iris had been eligible for it. 36-40”, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from our Ann Arbor micro-farm. Last offered in 2018 and we don't expect to offer it again.


PLUMERI, 1888

This fragrant little iris is a fascinating mix of jewel-like colors that photos can only hint at. “Coppery rose” over “velvety claret” is how the legendary Bertrand Farr described it in 1920, while other have called it “rosy mauve with metallic sheen” over “red-violet, edged gold-brown.” Early and free flowering, it’s an iris we look forward to every year. (Please note: Recent research by Anner Whitehead has convinced us that ‘Plumeri’ dates to 1888, not 1830.) 28-32”, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from Ann Arbor. Last offered in 2018 and we hope to offer again in 2021. If you’d like to be notified the next time we offer this treasure, sign up for an email alert.


PRINZESS VIKTORIA LUISE, 1910

This radiant little iris won my heart long before I learned its name. A new neighbor rescued a single rhizome from the shade of overgrown shrubs, and before long it had multiplied into a big clump of one of the most beautiful iris I’d ever seen. Blooming abundantly, it has luminous, pale yellow standards over bright, rosy purple falls for an effect that’s absolutely scintillating. 20-24”, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from our Ann Arbor micro-farm. Last offered in 2017 and we hope to offer again in 2021. If you’d like to be notified the next time we offer this treasure, sign up for an email alert.


QUECHEE, 1947

This chocolate-shaded, maroon-red iris “is a common sight at the Chelsea Flower Show,” says the popular BBC magazine Gardeners’ World. And there’s more to it than dramatic color – it’s also graced with a delicate orange scent. Bred by the great Harold Knowlton, it’s named for the Quechee Gorge, “Vermont’s Little Grand Canyon.” 30-34”, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from our Ann Arbor micro-farm. Last offered in 2018 and we don't expect to offer it again.


ROSY WINGS, 1934

Praised as “a delightful fantasy of colors” by the 1946 Schreiner’s catalog, this Dykes Medal winner is an ever-changing mix of iridescent bronze and old rose shading into deep russet and maroon. It’s remarkably tough and vigorous, too. As expert Winifred Ross wrote, “Once you have ‘Rosy Wings’, you always have it.” Lightly fragrant, 36-40”, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from Ann Arbor. Last offered in 2014. If you’d like to be notified the next time we offer this treasure, sign up for an email alert.


SENLAC, 1929

With “brilliant claret-red flowers on strongly branched stems” (Cooley catalog, 1936), this sumptuous iris was once celebrated as the reddest of all – and it’s still turning heads in gardens today. Bred by Englishman A.J. Bliss, it’s named for the site of the 1066 Battle of Hastings, from the Old French sanguelac or “blood lake.” 34-38”, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from our Ann Arbor micro-farm. Last offered in 2018 and we don't expect to offer it again.


SHAH JEHAN, 1932

“Opulent”, “gorgeous”, “magnificent”, “an extravaganza of color” — iris lovers for decades have been babbling about the breath-taking beauty of “this jewel among irises.” A spectacular blend of champagne, gold, chestnut, and an unbelievably rich, velvety plum, it’s well named for the great Mughal emperor who built 777 gardens — and the Taj Mahal. Grow it yourself and we bet you’ll soon be babbling about it, too! 36-40”, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from Ann Arbor. Last offered in 2014 and we don't expect to offer it again.


SHANNOPIN, 1940

Grown by author Vita Sackville-West at Sissinghurst – one of the 20th century’s most iconic gardens – this pastel beauty was bred by T. Lloyd Pillow, superintendent of Pittsburgh’s Street and Sewer Department. On tall, strong stems, its primrose-and-cream standards over old-rose, almost-pink falls make it an iris that our garden visitors always notice and admire. 38-42”, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from our Ann Arbor micro-farm. Last offered in 2016. We offer a rotating selection of iris. If you’d like to be notified the next time we offer this treasure, sign up for an email alert.


SUSAN BLISS, 1922

The finest “pink” iris of the early 20th century, this lilac-rose beauty first sold for an unheard-of $75 each. For decades it was widely-praised for its “perfect form” (Wayman), “robust constitution” (Puget Sound), “freedom of flowering” (Hellings), and “appealing creamy pink tone” (Mead) which “blends well with almost any color” (Peckham) – and that’s all still true today. 30-34”, zones 3a-8a(10aWC), from our Ann Arbor micro-farm. Last offered in 2016. If you’d like to be notified the next time we offer this treasure, sign up for an email alert.


THE RED DOUGLAS, 1937

The “sterling, gorgeously rich, deep dark” colors of this Dykes Medal winner (to quote the 1946 Schreiner’s catalog) are made even more beautiful by the “rich plush-like quality” of its petals. Bred by Jacob Sass of Nebraska, it was named for medieval Scotland’s powerful Earls of Angus. Due to limited space in our micro-farm, we’re offering it one time only, so get it while you can! 34-36”, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from Ann Arbor. Last offered in 2018 and we don't expect to offer it again.


WABASH, 1936

Simple but stunning, ‘Wabash’ won the iris world’s top prize, the Dykes Medal, in 1940, and it’s still enormously popular today, often topping the annual polls of the Historic Iris Preservation Society. Its pure white standards glow above vibrant purple falls that are intensified by gold beards and a radiant edging of silver. 36”, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from Ann Arbor. Last offered in 2020. If you’d like to be notified the next time we offer this treasure, sign up for an email alert.


WYOMISSING, 1909

One of the oldest American iris, petite ‘Wyomissing’ debuted in the very first catalog of Bertrand Farr, the visionary Pennsylvania nurseryman who sparked America’s love affair with iris in the early 1900s. It’s a dreamy, uniquely-colored iris with warm white standards blushed lavender-pink and richly patterned falls of a deeper, rosier lavender that blurs and fades into mist at the edges. 22-24”, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from our Ann Arbor micro-farm. Last offered in 2017 and we hope to offer this variety again in 2021. If you’d like to be notified the next time we offer this treasure, sign up for an email alert.


Page 1 of Iris: Lost?
1