What is the TOUGHEST historic bearded iris in your garden?

blissfulgarden(8b)July 31, 2009

I'm planning a new garden for the front yard. I would like to start growing more historics, and I'm looking for those that are "tough as nails". Do you grow a named historic that seems like the postman, impervious to rain, sleet, snow, hail, heat, humidity (or anything else Mother Nature brings)? If so, please tell us about it!

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carlos42180(Z5 Chicago)


There are many historics that have stood the test of time. Pretty much all of the Cayeux historics from late 20s to 30s have been very consistent in bloom. A few that you might want to try are:


Others you may want to consider are:

This is just off the top of my head, I'm sure there are others that are very tough. I'm pretty sure some of the other HIPS members have suggestions as well.

Brighton Park ris

    Bookmark   July 31, 2009 at 10:02PM
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Carlos, your linked photographs are phenomenal. Thank you so much for posting them! Now, I'm on a search to find some of these beauties. Any suggestions for your favorite growers of historics?

    Bookmark   July 31, 2009 at 10:57PM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

I love Dogrose.

Click on Carlos' Brighton Park Iris link and go down to where he has his listing of iris sellers. He gives his opinions of each there. It's a valuable resource!


    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 7:42PM
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carlos42180(Z5 Chicago)

Thanks for pointing out the links Renee! Now I have to update it! Some are out of business and I have tried several new ones.

If you are looking for those I have linked, all of the Cayuex are available through Superstition Iris Gardens. They also carry Dogrose and Bronze Bell.

Stepping Out, Pink Horizon and I think Margarita are still available from Schreiner's.

My Cloud Capers came from Blue J Iris, and Christmas Time came from Hornbaker Gardens.

The company where I got Velvet Dusk from is no longer in business, but I believe Wildwood Gardens still carries it.

Joy, unfortunately, is not sold commercially anymore, although I originally got mine from Superstitions several years ago. You'll have to ask a HIPS member to get that. I always get a lot of request for it every year for trades, thankfully it's a fast increaser.


    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 9:51PM
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Thanks for all the info, Carlos. I had actually already found the Cayeux cultivars and a few of the others you listed at Superstition yesterday. They were already sold out of Antigone, Cameroun, and Madame Louis Aureau, but I was able to purchase

Bronze Bell
Don Juan
Jean Cayeux

I'll check out the other growers for your additional suggestions. You're so very helpful! Evey =)

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 10:40PM
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Enjoyed reading this old posting and comments. As someone who is a novice in heritage irises, the comments and links were very informative. An iris variety that has persisted for 50 or 100 years must be tough, and rewarding enough to the generations of gardeners that it must also be beautiful. This post is a bit like those old irises - nice to see it's still around.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2012 at 8:49PM
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Nancy zone 6

I wish I knew the name of a peach colored iris I have. It is literally a weed. I got it about 15 years ago, a couple of plants. I've given away literally hundreds of rhizomes of it, usually send out boxes for postage every year since my friends started running from me. It is tall, late blooming & you have to be careful planting it in a bed with other iris, it will grow over them rapidly. Honestly, a WEED. Some areas in the garden it has a more rosy tone to the falls. The closest I've come to an ID is Pink Lace

    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 8:25AM
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aquawise(zone 4 Utah)

Kochii is a very hardy historic.
The peach one now Humm! VALIMAR, EWELL DO, are very similar.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 9:58AM
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Just because an iris is historic, does not mean it is 'idiot proof'. Actually quite a number of the irises mentioned above are not 'immortal', among others Christmas time and Stepping Out. I have had some historics I got by mistake, and they were really impossible to kill,but I do not have names of them. I recall one laying in the compost heap, covered by half meter of soil through the whole winter. It was as fresh as new.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 12:33PM
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I find that I can kill idiot proof plants... Maybe they are idiot proof in some climates or some gardens, and not in others.

I love ngraham's peach-colored iris from KY. It's really beautiful!

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 9:32PM
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lila888(Z5 IL)

Thanks for resurrecting this very interesting thread. I like your blog Eukofios.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2012 at 9:56AM
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lila 888 thank you! I'm a novice to the idea of growing historic iris, but I find I like a lot of them much more than I like a lot of the modern ones. This year I added several, but certainly don't have enough experience to recommend them - haven't seen them bloom yet. A germanica, some NOID, Helen Collingwood, Romeo, and have several more planned for next year. Helen Collingwood is said to be very durable and vigorous.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2012 at 8:20AM
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Our toughest is 'Mrs Andrist' It increases well & always blooms.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 12:14PM
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I have some NOID ones that where given to me about 7 years ago.The lady had them since her kids where little many many years ago.
I had them in a box and they stayed there for months before I remebered to plant them.
And one just laying on the ground after the cats dug them up will root and live on.
I planted some around my mail box and they lived through the drought.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 1:57PM
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I discovered some irises growing, barely, under the branches of a fir tree on my undeveloped extra acre. Bought the property this year, history is not known. The tree appears to be about 40 years old, which matches the age of the property. Dug up a couple of the rhizomes from among the tree roots. Long twisted, dehydrated appearing gnarled creatures. Trimmed off dead-looking parts. Planted in my iris bed. Doubt they will bloom next spring. Could be 2 years before identifying them. Must be a very tough variety. Hope I didn't kill it.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 1:33PM
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Piety, and a clump of Missouri that hasn't been touched for the 45 years that I have lived here. I see it bloom every spring-like an old friend.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2012 at 12:30PM
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That Missouri iris must be a huge clump by now! I looked it up on the HIPS site - it's lovely!

    Bookmark   September 26, 2012 at 9:11PM
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Missouri is no longer a clump, it borders a 50 ft driveway and did this all on its own.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 4:27PM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

I have one that may be 'Caterina'. It was here on the property when my grandparents and parents bought in 1960. My dad used to mow it down with the lawnmower, then renters lived here and let every green thing die except for an oleander, and then in 1989 I moved in because the place was uninhabitable and could no longer be rented. Guess what I found under that oleander? Dried up little rhizomes. I planted them in the garden and that first spring I got a stalk with 26 flowers on it! The thing multiplied like mad and I gave away hundreds of rhizomes. Now I am down to just a few, but I will always grow it.

Here is a link that might be useful: Caterina

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 11:14PM
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jeanrichter(9 (SF bay area))

Do the standards (and to a lesser extent, the falls) have a "cockled," slightly wrinkled appearance, kind of like seersucker fabric? That's a strong sign that you may have Caterina. Whatever it is, that's one vigorous iris!

    Bookmark   October 4, 2012 at 2:55PM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

Yes indeed, Jean, they do look seersuckery. Mine rarely look as pretty as the photo, but they are vigorous.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2012 at 11:23PM
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sc_gardener(zone 5)

Eleanor Roosevelt
Honorabile (specimen we have is from Grama's which is from the 1930s at least)
Caprice (and smells like grape popsicle, which the kids love)

    Bookmark   December 17, 2012 at 7:37AM
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Adding Honorabile or Sans Souci to my garden in Spring. Also Caprice. Maybe I'm on the right track!.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2013 at 10:53PM
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Mary Frances and Lady Friend

They go back a few decades. Historic? Not sure.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2013 at 10:14PM
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njiris(z 5 NJ)

The toughest historics grow in cemeteries. The ones that others mentioned, in my area are not the toughest, altho they possibly could be in another geographic area.
In the northeast, I would say the following
Quaker Lady
Helen Collingswood
Lent A Williamson
Indian Chief
Mme Henri Cayeux

Go to your local cemetery (one that allows you to plant in front of the graves. Or drive around old neighborhoods where people plant iris in their yards. Go at bloom time and take note, and then you will know for sure.
Most of the common ones are easy to identify.
Here are a few more that grow well for me
Almond Blossom
Casque D'Or
Barbara Walther imo, no more beautiful white iris in existence!)
Frank Adams
Pink Kitten

Good luck!

This post was edited by njiris on Sat, Jan 12, 13 at 16:11

    Bookmark   January 12, 2013 at 4:07PM
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njiris, that list is great!

Lat fall I ordered rhizomes from a heritage bulb catalog in Michigan. They send them in April, ready to bloom in May. Of your list, I ordered Quaker Lady, Honorabile (or Sans Souci?), Indian Chief, and flavescens! Also dalmatica and germanica. So I'll know this year how they do in my yard and how they look and smell!

Last summer, from a different source, in Tennessee, I ordered Helen Collingwood, among several others. It survived the summer and is looking no worse than my other irises, for January. We'll see if it blooms this year.

I would like to look around cemeteries. If I find one that's abandoned, I might take one rhizome. I feel a bit wrong doing that, but if the place is abandoned and no sign stating who is caretaker, I guess there's no other way. If the cemetery is getting care, I could look for someone to ask. My parents were buried last year. In their cemetery was a big clump of what appears to be Helen Collingwood. I'm no expert so I could easily be wrong. Since I ordered that already, no need to also take another. It was a hnice clump. That cemetery is probably 150 years old, but they are still burying people there. It's a very big cemetery in a small Illinois town, and there may be other irises there too.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2013 at 9:37PM
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One year we found a pile of iris rhizomes illegally dumped in a park where we walk the dogs. I don't know how long they were there. The were in the sun and dried out much of the summer. We picked them up, took them home, and planted them. They bloomed the next year. When they became too crowded, I thinned them out and discarded the oldest, worst looking rhizomes in a pile of brush. Those also took root and bloomed. Reviewing the HIPS site, I think these are Accent. It's rugged and beautiful. I feel lucky to have found the discarded rhizomes, and prefer these to many of the irises I've bought over the years.

Here is a link that might be useful: HIPS Accent Iris

    Bookmark   January 12, 2013 at 10:56PM
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random_harvest(z8 TX DFW)

I'm zone 8 also, but in hot, dry Texas. These are the idiot-proof, grow-like-a-weed can't-get-rid-of-them-with-dynamite survive-on-abandonded-homesteads historicals that thrive for me:

Crimson King 1893
Pink Lace 1945
William A. Setchell 1938
Indian Chief 1929
California Gold 1933
Sindjkha 1918

    Bookmark   January 23, 2013 at 8:30PM
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random_harvest(z8 TX DFW)

BTW, ngraham, I agree that your noid peach is probably Pink Lace. Looks like mine and behaves in a similar manner (i.e. late-blooming, friends running, etc). :-)

    Bookmark   January 23, 2013 at 8:36PM
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berrytea4me(Z5 CO)

'Indian Hills' has been a particularly strong grower for me..and it has a lovely fragrance too...shown here in front

'Coronation' is another very strong and proliferous plant..

'Eleanor's Pride' is a strong grower.
'Indian Chief' is also a good grower

'Indian Pow Wow' is a good Intermediate for the early season bloom
'Jake' is a strong growing tall white

'Sable'(front) and 'Pink Opal' (back) are both good growers.
'Shannopin' has also been an exceptional grower

    Bookmark   January 27, 2013 at 2:27PM
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Beautiful iris gardens. I am watching and trying to identify mine a little at a time. Keep the pictures coming. Inspiring!!!Anyone know this one?

    Bookmark   January 27, 2013 at 11:52PM
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sc_gardener(zone 5)

Toughest for me: honorabile. I Dug up some pieces from a residence we used to live at. Transplanted it, lived for a a few years, then died (I thought) inexplicably. (borers?) a few years ago, found one little bit of the rhizome. Babied it along. Now it is back to a big old clump again.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 10:23PM
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Thanks for the feedback everyone! It's fun to read through what everyone is growing. I have had mixed success with the suggestions received, and of course, this year the weather has wrecked havoc with the bloom cycle. I have found over the last few years that those irises that were recommended or found in Zone 8 or higher have done well, but that those from colder regions are very stingy with the bloom and increase in my climate. In some cases, irises that could be completely abused and still thrive in northern regions just could not take our heat and died out completely.

I wish I could find bearded irises in cemeteries around here, but I have been unsuccessful in finding them! I can frequently find Louisiana irises planted behind headstones, as they bloom taller and thus do not obscure the names. But beardeds are so prone to rot here, and folks don't usually try to grow them. I have actually had people stop and ask what kind of plant I have when they are in bloom... it's a rare sight here.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 9:43AM
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Faustine - 1859 Hybridizer: Lemon

This 33" beauty is blue with white hafts down the falls with solid blue stand and bright white beard. This is a sturdy iris that has stood the test of time. It blooms for me every year and I look forward to seeing it's striking blooms every May.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2013 at 6:17PM
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ofionnachta(z6 WNJ)

Isn't anyone going to say Wabash?

I have a big clump & nothing gets it down--shared with relatives & always keeps coming.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2013 at 3:09PM
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bear_with_me(8 Pacific NW)

This spring I planted 8 varieties from Old House Gardens. They ship in Spring. I think the flowers are smaller the first year when grown that way, so not the best example. Most bloomed, a couple did not.

The most vigorous of those was Quaker Lady. Shannopin did not bloom, but it has the strongest growth of the batch I bought. Flavescens had several flower stems, but then almost died out. There is one small start remaining. I don't know what happened.

I also had start of Helen Collingwood that I bought Summer 2012. It has the biggest rhizomes of the bunch. The flower was strong and tall, very nice. But it only made one new rhizome. This year it has 4 new side rhizomes, so maybe it's starting to establish.

Some of the others look more delicate. Maybe that's the Spring planting, or they are diploid. Still interested to see how they do next Spring.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2013 at 3:49PM
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