I sat down at the computer today prepared to blog about Hedychium, or ginger lily, but as I was scrolling through my photos this iris (cultivar 'Total Recall') caught my eye. It reminded me that I had just been in a garden earlier this week where the remontant (re-blooming) iris were in their full fall glory and so I changed my mind. I'll do the ginger lily post next week because right now, I have iris on my mind. This is partially due to the fact that just a few weeks ago I planted a box full of rhizomes that my good friend and partner in horticultural crime, Kelly Norris, sent me from his nursery, Rainbow Iris Farm (http://www.rainbowfarms.net/) in Iowa. (You also should check out Kelly's blog at http://www.kellydnorris.com/, but not until after you finish reading mine, please and thank you.)
Anyway... this photograph jogged my memory of several gardens that I have been in recently where the re-blooming iris, because of our long and unusually warm autumn, were absolutely stunning. I used to have a "thing" about plants that were typically spring-flowering reblooming in the autumn (I still don't like fall-flowering azaleas), but I have to admit that these remontant iris have become some of my favorites. 'Total Recall' was flowering at the Daniel Stowe Botanic Garden in Charlotte, NC when the Tennessee gang and I were there on our way to Raleigh for the Garden Writers conference back in late September. Others will bloom throughout the month of October and into November where the growing season is long enough and they don't get cut down by a hard frost.
Most of these re-bloomers, at least the ones that are readily available, are the typical tall bearded types. Being sort of a bearded iris virgin, I'm sure that there are others, too, but the tall beardeds are the ones I'm most familiar with so I'm sticking with those for now. Probably the most famous of all of the re-bloomers is the stunning white 'Immortality'. Now, you know I can barely stand white flowers, so for me to use the terms "white" and "stunning" in the same sentence, let alone side by side in a description, means that this plant must be truly special, and it is if for no other reason that it is one of the most consistent repeaters of any bearded iris, usually offering a show that is almost as impressive in the autumn as it is in the spring.
Other beautiful rebloomers include: 'St. Petersburg', 'Earl of Essex', 'Eleanor Roosevelt', 'Autumn Tryst', 'Summer Olympics', 'September Replay' and of course the ones I've already mentioned, 'Immortality' and 'Total Recall'.
These beautiful iris are just as easy to grow as the typical spring bloomers, but you get twice as much beauty from them! As for all bearded iris, excellent drainage is very important and full sun is preferred, though they will tolerate a little bit of shade (this may affect reblooming). Nearly all of them are extremely cold hardy and will grow all the way up into Zone 3, though fall bloom can sometimes be cut short in colder climates. In our southern gardens, though, where autumn often hangs on well into November as it has done this year, re-blooming iris are a great way to end the season!