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Evansia Or Crested Irises

Gardeners who have believed that irises are tall, elegant and richly colored plants will possibly be astonished when they come across the Evansia irises (also referred to as Crested irises). This is mainly because this iris group comprises some of the smallest irises available anywhere. In other words, irises belonging to this group produce miniature blooms that appear atop stems, which grow up to a few inches higher than the ground. Some other irises belonging to this group form dispersing clusters that always remain evergreen and appear to be happy to be grown in a shrubbery. These plants bear flowers akin to that of orchids and they appear on stems that are elongated and supple. These irises bear dozens of elegant flowers during spring. These flowers are finely frilled and their markings are subtle. In fact, one would really find to envisage the relationship between the Crested irises and the standard, heavily crossed bearded irises.

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All these irises, excluding on rarely found species, have a unique feature - they are toothed or serrated, come with a crest on the fall's haft where the beard of the bearded irises (the signal in the case of Louisiana, Siberian or other varieties of bearded irises) is found. The appearance of the crest may somewhat be akin to a rooster's cockscomb. However, it is not vividly red like the rooster's cockscomb. Alternatively, the crest may just be a hint of an elevated fuzzy patch akin to what is found on the Spanish or Dutch irises. Generally, the crest comes in a characteristic pattern or hue.

Evansia irises or crest irises differ in height as well as size and they are divided into two separate groups. One group mostly has its origin in North America and the plants enter a dormant phase during the winter months. Plants belonging to the second group are sub-tropical, tender, as well as evergreen and have their origin in Asia.

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Many people often ask why this variety of irises is called Evansia irises. The answer is not difficult to find. Like in the case of many other plants, the name of Evansia irises has been derived from the person who was responsible for introducing the plants to the West. Most of us are aware of this person's name and the fact that he served the East India Company and was based in India. In fact, it was Thomas Evans who introduced the I. japonica to England way back in 1794 and till date his name is remembered by iris lovers. Different from majority of irises, the Evansia irises, which are also referred to as orchid irises occasionally, normally produce the best flowers and foliage when they are grown in slightly shaded places. Many Evansia plants have wide, flat leaves having the shape of straps and these may burn due to hot sun or even frost. In fact, the leaves of these plants are their main attraction.

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Evergreen group

Evergreen Evansia irises look very attractive when they are grown in places having mild temperate climatic conditions. In fact, they are very effective plants for landscaping and appear attractive even when they are not in bloom. This iris variety develops into characteristic foliage clumps that make the plants more interesting when they are grown along woodland plantings. Moreover, growing Evansia irises in such places helps to protect them, as the trees drooping over the plants shelter them from too much hot sunshine and frosts.

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When grown in places having warmer climatic conditions, evergreen Evansia irises continue to grow almost throughout the year and go into the dormant phase for a very little period, especially in frost-free regions. If the winters in your region are extremely harsh and it is difficult for the plants to survive outdoors without any protection, it is advisable that you grow them in containers and shift the containers to a protected place before the arrival of the first frost. Normally, Evansia irises do not require any additional care. Applying the standard fertilizer once in a year and sprinkling some snail bait during the spring are just enough to ensure the plant's survival as well as steady growth.

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Species

I. japonica
Although the name of this iris species suggests that it may have its origin in Japan, in reality, it is indigenous to China. I. japonica is found growing over an extensive area in China that ranges up to Sichuan. In fact, the species got its misleading name after it was naturalized extensively in Japan. I. japonica was introduced in Japan when the Chinese emperor gifted some plants of this species to the Japanese emperor. This iris species is found growing naturally on the rock-strewn slopes in forested lands and in the midst of rocks along streams. It blooms during the period between April and May.
This iris species develops into dense clumps that grow up to a height of about 2 feet (60 cm). The flowering stalks of I. japonica grow higher than the leaves. The flowering spikes of this plant produce multiple branches and each of them bear several flowers continuously for nearly five weeks. This is the main attraction of I. japonica. However, an extremely cold winter may adversely affect the flowering of this species.
I. japonica will grow excellently in full sunlight, provided there is no frost. However, the leaves of this plant may lose much of their surface shine and nearly turn yellowish green when grown in full sunlight. Even the color of the flowers will become lighter.
The rhizome of I. japonica is narrow and creeping. In places free from drought and frost, the growth of the rhizomes will be vigorous and they will multiply rapidly.
This iris species loves damp and fertile soils that are somewhat acidic, lose and mixed with compost. I. japonica prefers being fed often, decomposed organic materials are the best, and requires a properly drained soil. The roots of this iris do not grow to a great depth, but are shallow. For replanting, you can even pull out the plants by hand from the main clump. You can replant I. japonica almost throughout the year. However, it is best to replant them during the spring.
In case you are living in a place where there is only light frosting and there is a bank that is nearly vertical and needs to be kept free from weeds and other intruders, you may possibly try cultivating I. japonica.
A particular form of I. japonica bears very attractive white flowers that have delicate white markings. The blooms have intensely fringed endings on their style arms. This form of iris is called I. japonica forma pallescens.
I. wattii
Like I. japonica, this iris species is also native to China - the Yunnan province of the country. I. wattii is the tallest among all plants belonging to the Evansia irises. It produces copious foliage that takes the form of leaf fans and grows from stems that appear like bamboos. The foliage of this iris species grows up to a height of 5 feet (1.6 meters) and usually higher. A section of iris growers suggest that the flowering stems of I. wattii will be staked as soon as they come out at the onset of spring. This will not only help to maintain the shape of the clump, but also stop them from bending due to their own weight. You can comprehend this when you notice that the flowering spray may sometimes be as tall as 6 feet (2 meters). Every flowering spray of the plant is branched and each of them may bear as many as 50 blooms over a period of 8 to 10 weeks. The flowers of this iris species are delicate and having a clear lavender hue. They are frilled, ruffled and measure nearly 4 inches (10 cm) across. This makes a bush of I. wattii in bloom a stunning spectacle.
It is not advisable to grow I. wattii in a place that is too windy or exposed, because this can easily damage the blooms as well as the attractive foliage. However, the plants have the aptitude to endure light frosts.
Similar to I. japonica, this iris species also increases quickly. However, unlike the former, the shape of I. wattii always remains neat. You may undertake division of the rhizome from its tough side at any time. When you pull out the plants, they retain their roots intact and are all set for replanting. You can also propagate I. wattii from stem cuttings. To propagate I. wattii from stem cuttings, you first need to immerse the cuttings in water for one or two weeks. You will soon notice new roots emerging from joints of the pieces. As plants of this iris species do not live for long, it is advisable that you grow new I. wattii plants now and then.
I. confusa
An Evansia iris, I. confusa bears elegant blooms similar to those of orchids. When this iris variety was introduced in England for the first time, most mistook it to be I. wattii and this led to its naming - I. confusa. Although this iris variety has some resemblance to the I. wattii, it is not as tall and even its blooms are relatively smaller. Usually, the flowers of I. confusa are white with their falls dotted with purple and yellow. Incidentally, this iris also has its origin in the Yunnan province of China. In its native land, this plant is found growing on in the midst of rocks and scrub on sharp slopes. I. confusa blooms in May and is a hardy plant, provided there is some protection.
I. tectorum
This is another iris that belongs to the Evansia group and has its origin in China and the Himalayas. The flowers of this iris are different from those of I. confusa and remind one of the Japanese irises. The flowers of this iris variety are large and grow up to 4 inches (10 cm) across. The flowers are very attractive and have a soft blue-mauve hue and come with very prominent serrated crest. The standards of I. tectorum are somewhat raised. In Japan, people traditionally plant the I.tectorum on their rooftops. According to legend, there was a time when Japanese women dried the roots of this plant, made it into a powdered form and applied the powder as a cosmetic on their face. In times of famine, Japanese were prevented from growing any plant that could not be used for consumption as food. Hence, they chose to plant the rhizomes of I. tectorum on their thatched roof instead of being deprived of their favourite face powder.
The winters are dry and cold, while the summers are warm and wet in the habitat of I. tectorum's origin. This iris species does not grow very tall. Compared to the Evansia irises discussed above, I. tectorum has the aptitude to endure the warm sun as well as cold winters better. Like any other plant that thrives well on rooftops and walls, this iris species also has a preference for good drainage and full sunlight. I. tectorum has very shallow roots and it increases rapidly when the conditions are favourable. Therefore, it is essential to divide the clumps once in two to three years. In addition, feed the plants with properly decomposed compost or sheep manure to ensure that the plants remain vigorous.
If you are growing this iris species amidst rocks, you will require changing the soil every year. Adding new soil will ensure their proper growth. These plant can be divided immediately after their flowering season in spring or immediately when it starts raining in the fall. While the older plants have the aptitude to tolerate frost, the young plants that emerge in spring will be harmed if exposed to frost. Apart from vegetative reproduction, I. tectorum can also be propagated by their seeds. Plants grown from its seeds will produce a true white form.
I. milesii
Like I. tectorum, this iris variety also has its origin in China as well as the Himalayas. These plants grow up to a height of 30 inches (75 cm) and prefer soils liked by I. tectorum, but cannot endure lime at all. The plant develops a gorgeous, vigorously growing foliage clump, which is more erect compared to I. japonica. I. milesii blooms in early summer and the flowers are relatively smaller than I. japonica. Compared to other Evansia irises, the flowers of I. milesii have more upright standards, while the blooms are pinkish purple. The flowers of I. milesii are borne by thin branched stalks making it easier to pick them. This iris goes into a dormant phase during the winter months. In fact, as all the leaves of the plant fades, the rhizome lies bare on the soil surface. At this time of the year, the rhizome of I. milesii becomes conspicuous for its vivid green shade.
Irises
Aril and Arilbred Irises
Bearded Irises / Culture / Species
Bulbous Irises
Japanese Irises
Louisiana or Hexagona Irises
Median Irises
Miniature Dwarf Bearded Irises
Novelty Bearded Irises
Pacific Coast or California Irises
Reticulata or Dwarf Bulbous Irises
Scorpio or Juno Irises
Siberian Irises
Spuria Irises
Tripetala Irises
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