Iris A-Z: U


Deviating from the Tall Bearded iris again, this is a species cross and is smaller in stature and flower size. Nonetheless, these unusual crosses are increasingly popping up and we should be glad that hybridisers are experimenting to produce something different. ‘Understated’ was raised by Lynn Markham of Massachusetts and introduced in 2001. To be honest, the flowers do not exactly excite me and the name is very apt. But it does have good foliage, good branching and a long bloom season. It was bred from Iris aphylla which is a natural tetraploid (twice the usual number of chromosomes) and was influential in the development of modern iris, which are tetraploids. The development of tetraploids led to bigger, brighter flowers than were known a century ago. I. aphylla is the only known European species of Iris with bearded flowers and a stem that branches below the middle so it has potential to improve the branching of iris, leading to longer bloom times and more elegant spacing of the blooms. It has been used in the breeding of Miniature Tall Bearded iris.


We venture away from the TBs again with ‘Ulalena’, an arilbred. The aril iris are all desert iris from the Middle East and can be demanding to please but their flowers are always unusual and enchanting and they can be crossed with bearded iris. The prolific George Sutton introduced this gem in 2001. It is a crisp flower with an indefinable hint of aril in it and it can rebloom too. It achieved the William Mohr medal, given to iris that are less than half aril, in 2010.


Texan Hooker Nichols bred this glowing melon orange beauty and it was introduced in 1992. It is short, at 85cm and has sturdy stems with nine or ten buds.


And something absolutely gorgeous from Keith Keppel to round up this letter. Big and frilly, this was introduced in 2003. Add the dazzling beard to the pastel flower and a sweet fragrance and you have a winner – of the Award of Merit in 2008.


I am not sure what the thinking was behind this name which always trips me up. It is a Cayeux introduction from 2013 that I planted at the ‘last job’. I don’t think it is exceptional, though it is pretty enough, but nothing like the description on the Cayeux website – ‘Apricot-infused cream standards, brightest at their centre, framing rather rounded and beautifully ruffled lavender falls with wide mid-brown edges’. Either I had the wrong plant or they copied and pasted the wrong text!

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