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New Orleans'
Louisiana Iris

by Rich Sacher, Louisiana USA
Click images to enlarge

Last summer, we had about 300 Louisiana Iris left over from spring, and we did not want to divide them and grow them until this spring … so we decided to donate them to City Park’s Big Lake project.

The big lake in the park was being renovated with a small boat house, jogging and bicycle paths, an orange grove and a small wetland area. Located right next to the New Orleans Museum of Art, it is a delightful wetland oasis in the middle of City Park, attracting ducks, (domestic and native), swans, geese, egrets, herons, and even some pelicans. 


We delivered our potted iris to the park’s nursery last July, where we were surprised to find that a large assortment of Louisiana Iris hybrids were already there, awaiting volunteers to get them planted next to the big lake. (Louisiana Iris tend to go semi-dormant in the summer heat, so they were a pretty sad looking collection of plants.)

Last fall, several areas next to the big lake were rototilled, the soil amended, fertilizer added, and a sprinkler system installed. Then came the volunteers, guided by park and botanic garden personnel, and about 2,000 Iris were removed from their pots and planted. The Iris were just beginning to come into their fall growth, and as a result, the planting looked pretty pitiful for several weeks, as the plants began to take root. I was wondering if the turtles, ducks or nutria would damage the plants, by eating them or just by walking through them.

With full sun and moist conditions, Louisiana Iris are supposed to grow rapidly in the fall, winter, and into early spring, blooming in April here in New Orleans. I had my fingers crossed, and often inspected the plantings during my morning jogs through the park. The wildlife around the lake were most cooperative, and left the Iris alone.
After an unprecedented cold winter, with several killing frosts, spring arrived in Louisiana two weeks late. None of the rapidly growing Iris showed any signs of winter damage. I think the lowest temperature one night was around 27 degrees F (3C), but these are really tough plants!

As a result of all the volunteers’ hard work and planning, including several winter applications of fertilizer, we were rewarded with the most spectacular collection of Louisiana Iris hybrids I have ever seen. For over a month, an incredible rainbow of Iris flowers straddled the pathways along the big lake, creating quite a stir in city park, drawing record crowds to the newly improved lake.

Although there were perhaps only 50 different varieties of Iris in these plantings, out of the hundreds of hybrids available, I was really impressed with the spectacular variety and performance of these newly planted areas. I can hardly imagine how fantastic they will be next year, when the plants have multiplied and are producing three times the number of bloom stalks that we saw this first year.

I invite you to my photo tour: walk with me along the big lake, and enjoy a rainbow of colors that will dazzle your eyes and test your vocabulary. Not bad for leftovers, if you ask me!








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