German Iris blooms in May, a full month earlier than the Japanese, and although the range of colour is not very varied, the plant is valuable on account of its hardiness, the peculiar light grey-green of its large, strong leaves, and the character of the blossom which is very much like the Flower de Luce of the gardens past and gone. Get good clumps of this Flag in the nursery, and in a year or so you will be able to divide them with a sharp spade and replant them. The bulbs are most hardy, immortal would be a good name for them, and will grow almost on top of the ground; in fact it is the habit of a clump to force itself up and cleave asunder, so that it has the appearance of being split open and hollow in the middle; for this reason it should be frequently divided and reset. The growth starts very early in the Spring, and in the warm spells of Midwinter the shoots will begin growing. The roots may be moved at any time of the year without the slightest risk. Plant German Iris in clumps along the edges of the beds, alternating it with Japanese Iris; or a border might be made along both sides of a path for ten or twelve feet or so, say one of the paths leading from the Circus. The best colours are Florentina, white and early; Chereau, white; Pallida Speciosa, lavender; Au-ralia, purple; Vesta, deep yellow with maroon falls.
The flower is quite stocky and iess ethereal than most Flags. This plant will flourish in any soil and is one of the very few that will bloom in the oppressive grime and soot of the London atmosphere. Whatever beauty the German Iris possesses fades into pale insignificance beside the stately Iris of Japan (Iris Kaempferi). The self-coloured flowers of this Flag are like Orchids, more beautiful than Orchids for they lack the painted, artificial appearance of the most familiar air plants. They are borne on long stems reaching, under good conditions, the height of five feet or more, and blossom the last week in June or the first week in July.
German Iris in the Garden.
All the varieties, except the mottled and double ones, are good and the colours range through many shades of blue to plum colour, purple and white. These Flags flourish in almost any soil, but should be well drained, except in the growing season when a large amount of moisture will increase the size and brilliance of the flowers; in fact much wetting is necessary for a month before they come into bloom. The best clump that I ever saw was located in the kitchen garden, a little downhill from the tap which was frequently opened in a dry June, and the overflow or waste was continually wetting and cooling the roots, yet did not settle around them as the incline of the ground carried it off. The flower stalks were over five and a half feet high, and the flowers nearly nine inches across. An ideal place for this Iris is on the banks of a pond, or the edge of damp, swampy land where it may cool its toes in the water yet not be incessantly soaked. It needs sun and warmth and will not do well in the shade. Plant clumps of Iris Kaempferi at intervals of seven feet along the paths in the garden, and even in the narrow bed by the hedge where you will have to irrigate them frequently, but where they will be worth the trouble.
When this Iris is in bloom the garden presents the most fairy-like picture. The beautiful delicate flowers are borne so high and turn so lightly from the slender stems that they seem to rise from the sheaves of drooping leaves like coloured bubbles; the effect in the moonlight is mystical. When the scene is set for Kaempferi's appearance the Phlox clumps are about two feet high and the ground is quite hidden by them and the Funkias and Hemerocallis; Foxglove and Sweet William are just past their climaxes; the Nasturtium is resting from the first efforts of blooming, and its light-green stems are beginning to trail over the dark-green hedge; there is a slight slackening of all bloom when the beautiful Flags have the centre of the stage. The other plants are a little awed; there is not much to distract one's attention from the entrance of the leading ladies. Softly they unfold into flower, one by one; first the white, then the purple, then the blue, until the wise en scene is complete. They disappear just as gradually, just as softly, and the lance-like leaves quiver in the faint Summer zephyrs as their beautiful offspring fade and wither and fall.
The curtain is only down a moment, to be raised on the fast quickening glories of Rudbeckia and Phlox. If I were going on a journey in the Summer time, to the fairest, freshest, coolest land under the sun, I would postpone my setting out until after Iris Kaempferi had bloomed. Never plant these beautiful flowers in masses; they are not only too magnificent in colour and form for such a purpose, but in a small garden the bed would be uninteresting for most of the Summer. They should be near the path where one may enjoy their intimacy. Japanese Iris does not bloom freely the first year after transplanting, and should be moved in October.
White Japan Iris.