favored bulb offers a rainbow of possibility.
by Steven W. Brown, AIFD
courtesy of Flower Council of Holland
Commonly known as fleur-de-lis or flag, the Iris (pronounced EYE-ris)
genus comprises around 200 species, the most prevalent commercially
grown of which is I. hollandica, or the Dutch hybrids. These are grown
from bulbs and originate from southern Europe and the Mediterranean.
family ties. Irises are members of
the Iridaceae family, which also includes Crocuses, Freesias and
gods and reverence. Irises take their name from the Greek
goddess of the rainbow, Iris, who transported messages between mortals
and Mount Olympus deities. Among her duties was leading the souls of
deceased women to the Elysian Fields. In token of that faith, the Greeks
planted purple Irises on the graves of women.
For centuries, the
Iris (fleur-de-lis) has been revered as a religious symbol and has been
used in architecture and décor.
4 a strong force. Under natural
conditions, Irises bloom in the spring although modern technologies
allow growers to produce cultivars that florists and consumers enjoy all
year. Peak supplies are available from March through May. Most Iris
varieties are produced in the United States and the Netherlands.
a spectrum. Irises are
available in many colors, including blues, violets, whites and yellows.
Most are bicolored (generally with yellow markings on the falls—the
downward curving “petals”) or multicolored (with falls and standards—the
upright “petals”—of different hues).
metric buy. Irises are sold in 10-stem
bunches. Florists can purchase them in single bunches or in cases of 40
or 60 bunches. Stem length can vary depending on variety and season.
Most cut Irises are shipped dry in boxes. They can be stored dry,
at 32 F, for up to one week. Prolonged storage can result in failure of
the blooms to open. When needed, process the Irises as described below.
a little tlc. It is preferable to
unpack Irises immediately upon arrival. Remove foliage that will fall
below the water line. Often, sand and silt are present between the
foliage and stems; rinse this away thoroughly, and cut at least 1 inch
off each stem end. Then dip or place the stems into a hydration
Studies show that
Irises may not benefit from the nutrients in standard flower-food
solutions, but they do benefit from the biocides, which limit growth of
harmful microbes in the water. Place Irises into properly prepared
flower-food solution or into a solution specially formulated for bulb
flowers. (Such solutions contain “replacement” hormones and have a lower
concentration of sugar, which helps prevent leaf yellowing.) Most
experts suggest using cold solutions, to reduce the chance that flowers
will “blow open.” Place the flowers into a floral cooler, at 33 F to 35
F with 90 percent humidity, to hydrate for at least two hours before
designing with or selling them. Frequent misting can be beneficial.
Irises are not sensitive to ethylene.
a short life. Irises are delicate flowers and have short
vase lives—only three to six days, depending on variety, source and
treatments. If these flowers are handled improperly or held too long
before sale, the blooms may never open. Advise consumers to keep Irises
in a cool location away from drafts and excessive heat.
versatile powers. Historically, Iris
root (orris root) was used in the treatment of certain illnesses. It
also has been utilized for centuries as a fixative in perfume. Suspended
in beer barrels, it keeps beer from going stale, and, in wine casks, it
will enrich the bouquet of the wine. Orris root also is used to flavor
brandies, soft drinks and toothpaste.
Steven W. Brown, AIFD, is a
professor and department chair of horticulture and floristry at City
College of San Francisco, with 29 years of consulting and educational
experience in the floral industry. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or
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