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Iris: Lost Forever?

From America’s Expert Source for Heirloom Flower Bulbs
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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


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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 2022. 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.


CORONATION, 1927

The perfect yellow iris? Could be! It’s not too pale, not too bright, tough enough to thrive in total neglect, and it blooms and blooms – often after all the other iris here in our micro-farm have called it quits for the season. Introduced by Agnes Moore of tiny Benton, Illinois, it has become, in the words of iris expert Mike Unser, “truly an iris classic.” 28-36”, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from our Ann Arbor micro-farm. 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.


CRIMSON KING, 1893

The deep, almost iridescent red-purple of this fragrant iris – which cameras fail to capture – dazzled the world when it was first introduced by the legendary Peter Barr. Its blooms are often the first of iris season, and in zone-6 and warmer gardens it often reblooms in the fall. In fact, it’s become “ubiquitous in coastal California,” writes Clarence Mahan in Classic Irises, “where its reblooming habit has given it a place in the hearts and flower beds of generations of gardeners.” Just 22-26” tall, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from Ann Arbor. 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.


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 2022. 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.


ELEANOR ROOSEVELT, 1933

Short, early, and REBLOOMING, ‘Eleanor’ flowers at the very dawn of iris season and then again in the fall in warmer gardens. It’s an intensely deep reddish-purple with a fascinating iridescent sheen. Named for the First Lady who became one of the most admired people of the 20th century, this special iris deserves your vote! Just 20 inches tall, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), Ann Arbor. 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.


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 2022. 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 2022. 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 2022. 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.


LORELEY, 1909

Named for the golden-haired siren of the Rhine, this quirky flower was one of the most popular iris of the early 20th century. Its glowing, primrose-to-amber standards are held in an open, goblet-like form, and they’re often splashed with bits of the richly veined violet of the falls – two “imperfections” that somehow only add to its enduring appeal. By Germany’s Goos and Koenemann, 22-26”, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from our Ann Arbor micro-farm. 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.


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 2022. If you’d like to be notified the next time we offer this treasure, sign up for an email alert.


MRS. HORACE DARWIN, 1888

The violet reticulations on this elegant, not-so-big iris make it even more beautiful up close – and great for bouquets. Named for the wife of one of Darwin’s sons, it’s an enduring survivor by Sir Michael Foster “whose name shines more luminously than any other in the early history of garden iris” (Mahan, Classic Iris). Fragrant, 24-26”, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from our Ann Arbor micro-farm. 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.


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.


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 2022. If you’d like to be notified the next time we offer this treasure, sign up for an email alert.


QUAKER LADY, 1909

One of the best-loved American iris of all time, ‘Quaker Lady’ is a “dainty, charming” plant with flowers of “smoky lavender, bronze, purple, fawn, and old gold” (to quote AIS founder John Wister). And though beauty is only skin-deep, ‘Quaker Lady’ is also sturdy and care-free, multiplies quickly, and blooms with abandon. All in all, it’s a worthy monument to its creator, Bertrand Farr, the visionary Pennsylvania nurseryman who did more than anyone else to make iris one of the signature plants of the early 20th-century garden. 27-30”, zones 3a-8a(10bWC), from Ann Arbor. 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.


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.


SWERTI, 1612

This grape-scented beauty was first pictured 400 years ago in the lavish Florilegium of Emmanuel Sweert, a Dutch artist and nurseryman who was head gardener for the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II. Although it’s often confused with ‘Madame Chereau’ (see them side-by-side here), its curled, pointed falls are distinct – and charming. As for its spelling, although Sweert’s name has two Es, and ‘Sweertii’ would be correct by modern rules, we’re sticking with the historic ‘Swerti’. 30-36”, zones 3a-8a(10aWC), from Ann Arbor. 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.


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.


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