WiseAcre Gardens

north of the adirondacks – wildflowers & perennials that survive winters colder than my wife's feet

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Posted by WiseAcre on Dec 30th, 2007

Vintage Iris

2007
Dec 30

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 Old Yellow Iris

 Old Yellow Iris

 Old Yellow is the only name I have for this Iris.  I can’t be sure but clues point to it being from the 1940 – 1950s.

 This Iris is responsible for turning me into a perennial gardener. I had no idea  It was a chance meeting and an implusive act that sparked an infatuation that grew into a passion. It’s been around 15 years since we first met, yet Old Yellow remains the favorite in my perennial garden.

 I foraged it from an old abandoned farm..  The house had burned sometime in the mid to late 50s.  Near the ruins was a rock outcrop that had been transformed into a terraced garden. Someone had spent a lot of time and effort building stone walls where I found pennies embedded in the mortar dated 1940 and 1941. The only perennials that remained were a couple varieties of Sedum, some Hens and Chicks and one lone fan of the Iris.

 I could see that the Iris wouldn’t last another season. Quack-grass had invaded and the Iris was giving up. I must have had a sentimental moment because I dug them up and brought them home. I started my first flower garden with those rescued plants. Up to that time a garden for me meant only one thing – vegetables. Before long I was conspiring with the other side forming perennial foraging parties.  The creative  aspect of creating a flower garden had captured my interest.

 Each year the vegetable garden shrunk. Perennials, stone walks, boulders  _ OH MY,  Bee Balm, Iris, day lilies, phlox, black-eyed Susans, Sedums and Lupines had taken over. I was now addicted, I needed more and more.  I planted as if I was growing cash crops.  I still do.

 I am only half kidding when I tell people I want to be a Landscape Artist but no one told me that I was supposed to use a brush. Even if someone had told me, it would not have mattered. I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler. If I wanted to be a landscape artist I was going to have to do it the hard way. My brushes are a fork, shovel, and rake and use plants, stone and water as paint. My canvas is soil. My inspiration is nature.  I’ll never become an artist though.  But I’m doing what I love and I’ll never work another day in my life.  I’m a gardener now.  Something as simple as digging up a plant altered the path of my life.

 Fifteen years later and now there are hundreds maybe even thousands of this Old Yellow Iris. I’ve planted them all over the nearby village and even sent some around the world. Now others are sharing them and I can’t help but feel good about resucing that lone survivor. We’ve both thrived. I can look back now and see that we rescued each other. We had help and thank all those who shared their knowledge and plants.

 This is a medium height Iris and very vigorous. But the thing that really gets me is how long a blooming time it has. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say it will bloom for 2 weeks. It certainly isn’t an Iris that you would be afraid of missing the flowers if you went away for a week-end.

If anyone had an idea of what the name is I would appreciate finding out.

7 Responses

  1. Aiyana Says:

    What a nice story about a lovely flower. It must be wonderful for you thinking about all those iris flowers beautifying so many different gardens around the world.
    Happy GTS and Happy New Year,
    Aiyana

  2. Mark Says:

    Hi Wisacre,
    Some of my most treasured plants are ones that have come from relatives or been passed onto me.I love a plant with history. Earlier this year I sent out Corncockle seeds to anybody who wanted them(only in U.K.)The plant is quite rare but I have loads of the.Around 20 people took up the offer so I carn’t wait to see what happens come the spring.

    The “cold tea” drinking musical clown got in touch today and I would like to go down and see him and see if I can be trained in the magical art of Morris dancing and tea drinking….should be fun

  3. Carol Says:

    I have no name for your iris, but I like ‘Old Yellow’. Your story is wonderful, I love hearing how people become ‘gardeners’!

  4. MrBrownThumb Says:

    I don’t have a name either but I’m touched by the story and how you’ve helped it spread around the world.

    Congrats and keep up the good work.

  5. Mr. McGregor's Daughter Says:

    I wish I could help with the Iris ID, but I am clueless. I have my own mystery old-fashioned iris. Small purple, sweet scented flowers, it was 1 of a handful of plants on my property when I bought it. My sister used to have an Iris like yours, but she didn’t know its name. It was given to her by a farmer. What a great story about getting sucked into gardening. I like the description of a Landscape artist. I think making a garden into art is the most difficult medium as it concerns time as well as space, & often key parts of the composition disappear without warning.

  6. WiseAcre Says:

    -thank you all for visiting-

    Aiyana,
    You’ll see the smug look on my face if you view my title image.

    Mark,
    Most of my treasured plants are “unknown” except for their generic common name. Foraging raiding parties and gifts filled my gardens at first. I owe a lot to gardeners around here.

    Carol,
    So you like stories about falling into the depts of addiction?

    MrBrownThumb
    Glad you stopped by – I was missing you over the holidays.

    Mr. McGregor’s Daughter.
    I have another mystery Iris too. I call it Buble Gum Iris – the blue flowers smell just like Bazooka Joe Bubble Gum.

    And I’m still laughing over Public Enemy #1. – I believe Benjamin Bunny & Peter Rabbit have holed up for the winter by my stone wall.

    —————————————————
    To all:
    If anyone wants a sample of “Old Yellow” I’d be more than happy to spread them around some more.

    Send me a note at:
    wiseacre(at)northnet.org.
    A spring reminder will also help jog my memory at mailing time.

  7. Sarah Says:

    My friend wanted help identifying some of the plants in her new garden. As I was googling around, I found your image of the yellow iris. They are identical! I believe that the iris name is Iris Bicapitata and it originally came from Italy. Do your irises have double blooms on each stem? If so, and they are fragrant, then I think Bicapitata might be your Old Yellow.

    I love your story. It’s wonderful how something forgotten can become someone else’s passion. Thanks for sharing.