The Ghost Iris

Several years ago I was kindly given a clump of Iris Sibirica in a bucket, it took some detective work to figure out that this is what they were. They were quickly planted and haven’t moved since (apart from growing outwards). It took a year for them to establish and flower but when I saw their intense deep blue colour and unusual form, I was captivated. I had never seen flowers like these before and their sweet scent is a great bonus too.

Iris SibiricaThey contrast beautifully with the mexican orange blossom behind them (green-gold leaves with clusters of white flowers). I have a few pots of very young iris grown from their seed. This year, I also chopped a bit off either end of the rhizome clump and have planted those in other parts of the garden. A while ago I also decided to go shopping and bought several more types of Siberian Iris:

  1. Iris Sibirica “Tropic Night”
  2. Iris Sibircia “Pink Haze’”
  3. Iris Sibirica “Emperor”
  4. Iris Sibirica “Butter and Sugar”
  5. Iris Sibirica “Mrs Rowe”
  6. Iris Sibirica “Caesar”
  7. Iris Sibirica “Roger Perry”
  8. Iris Sibirica “Southcombe White”

They’re spread about the garden. Being young and inexperienced at the time, I had bought those irises as small, cheap, un-potted plants and put them straight into the ground instead of into pots to grow on. Consequently, one has since died, another will want rescuing from an enthusiastic dicentra and another is being eaten alive by caterpillars. Being efficient and organised I made absolutely no note of what variety I planted where. At the time I thought it would be exciting to wait a few years to let them get established and then recognise them once they start flowering.

Well this year, two of them have started to flower. Although several of the irises in the list are similar in colour, making them tricky to identify, this iris should be easy:

White Siberian IrisA beautifully haunting, ghost of a white flower, this is Iris Sibirica “Southcombe White”. It almost didn’t make it as the flower stem folded over when it was smacked with wet washing hanging from the line that runs above it.

As I’ve been writing this, the second iris has also now opened to reveal a flower that looks a lot like the bog-standard Iris Sibirica, but is a paler blue, splashed with purple. A brief Google Image Search reveals this one to be Iris Sibirica “Roger Perry”.

Iris Sibirica "Roger Perry"

Unfortunately, this was also a victim of the washing and an errant bed sheet has snapped the stem so this flower is no more. If the rest of the plant survives then it’s been set back a year, otherwise I’ll have to add it to the shopping list, but at least I’ve got its name.

When I finally have all seven clumps of iris established and flowering, I’ll be able to determine the one that didn’t survive and go about getting a replacement. The next time I decide do something like this, I’ll be sure to mark out the positions of what I plant where so that I don’t have to wait several years in order to replace those that didn’t make it.

16 Comments


  1. Very lovely iris! I have two special bearded iris that are from my Grandfather – making them very old indeed! They have travelled with me from garden to garden! ANd I also love the siberians – yours are superb! I grow them by the pond as they seem to like wet feet!

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    1. Hi Jayne, thank you, I really like the form of the flower and I find the whole plant to be much more elegant than the wider-leafed irises, somehow, they always look more elegant – I don’t know why, it’s just me. It’s just the range of colours is rather limited to blue, white and a bit of yellow, nothing like the range other irises enjoy.

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  2. I love iris siberica/sibirica in all it’s forms. currently I have none as I have a dry hot garden in the summer months but I do have plans for a little bog garden, because my heart lifts when I see the common yellow ones. There is a National Trust Garden (Tintinhull) in Somerset that has a narrow border planted with Iris S -“flock of butterflies” I think, and just for that short season it is to die for. In gardens with enough space for deep perennial borders which are my personal favourites, it is lovely to be able to dedicate a space to just one thing. In this case this narrow border is separated from the main border by just a narrow strip of paving stones, so from further away, the impression is that they are in the same border. If you are ever holidaying down this way, I recommend that garden – Divided into rooms, and with some lovely plantings (and you can BandB with me at the same time!) When I was small, I lived in a house where the garden was still recovering from it’s “garden as food” duties during WW2. Lots of fruit bushes and an apple tree, but somehow, on a little hill of soil (why? don’t know) a huge group of purple bearded iris had survived and there was a lovely show every year.

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    1. Hi Mrs Mac, that sounds simply wonderful! There are so many gardens that I would very much like to visit in the South West, but I’ve never ventured down that way. When I become a man of leisure, I shall be sure to take you up on the B&B while we tour some of the best gardens in the count(r)y.

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  3. What stunning shades of blue! And the petal design is just magical. It has the feel of a Chagall painting (minus the flying lovers). I definitely need more irises.
    And darn those snapping sheets! Almost as bad as dining deer and snacking slugs.

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    1. Hi Emily, thanks, I like the deep shades of blue these irises have and their unusual form (there’s nothing else like it). Unfortunately, every activity vies for the same space in such a small garden, eating, sitting, washing, drying, pots, shelves and with so much jostling for space, there’s bound to be casualties.

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  4. I love love love these! They are my up and coming plant of the moment here. Just been out and checked mine for scent based on your comment but mine (an unidentified bargain bag of rhizomes) has no smell. Got one called “purple haze” coming through as well.

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    1. Hi Claire, The “Roger Perry” isn’t fragrant either. It’s a shame as the flowers in the main clump have a lovely sweet smell – it never occurred to me that they would smell, which is why I discovered it when they had already flowered for two seasons!

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  5. Beautiful selections. I’ve broken a few flower stems in my day, resulting in plenty fo palm to forehead slaps. I don’t grow Siberian Iris because, while beautiful, the blooms are short lived in my garden.

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    1. Hi Jason, the flowers don’t last a great deal of time in my garden either (a few weeks to a month I think), but they’re so beautiful when they come out, they instantly transform the part of the garden they’re in and then I am content to enjoy their elegant foliage for the rest of the year.

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  6. Sunil, The Siberian irises are just hitting their stride in my garden, and I love them. Your first picture looks like the one that grows most vigorously (and self sows) in my garden. I also have some in paler shades of blue, white and yellow, and pink/lavender. I have Pink Haze in my garden, but it is what one iris breeder called “a reluctant bloomer” — which means that I get one or two flowers every couple of years. I’ll be interested in hearing whether it is more vigorous in your conditions.

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    1. Hi Jean, that first one is scented (took me two years to realise!) and I really like it. Unfortunately, I don’t know where “Pink Haze” is planted or even if it still alive! If it ever does flower and I rediscover it, I’ll be sure to post an update on how well it’s doing.

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  7. Your irises are spectacular, but obviously much of the vividness of these images can be explained by your talent as a photographer. Your photos are beautiful!

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    1. Hello Alain, thank you, I’m very flattered, I would have to say it’s more the miracle of modern day optics and image reconstruction and processing, as well as taking ten pictures of each view and throwing nine away (or sometimes all of them) that gives me good pictures. I do like these irises too, they’re a particularly deep blue and look lovely when the sun is on them (if we ever get sun, that is).

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  8. Hello Sunil, Do you still have irises? Would it be possible to talk to you about them please? Thank you!

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    1. Hello Clare, yes I do, but I can’t tell which ones I have until they all flower. I have lost one or two and they have also become mice up with divisions from the original clump of Iris Sibirica I was first given.

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