McMurtrie P. Eng
One fundamental question you may be asking yourselves
is, are the plants we refer to as Junos members of the genus Iris, or members
of Trattinnick's genus Juno? I don't
intend to attempt to try to answer that question here. For that, you'll have to wait until my book
about Junos is published. What I do
intend to do, is pass on some key points that I've observed / learned over the past
One important point to remember is that Juno species
are very diverse genetically. So much
so, that from limited studies it appears that each species is unique. This is even the case when two species have
the same chromosome counts: they have elements that are the same, and elements
that are different. As you would expect,
this means that not all species intercross with each other. And when they do, the progeny are very, very
Junos are relatively easy to grow, particularly
species like bucharica and magnifica. Everyone should be able to grow those two. A few species are tender, such as planifolia, reggis-uzziae, etc. (the Mediterranean ones). These would actually be perfect for those of
you living in southern states where winter temperatures don't go below about
40°F. Clearly you wouldn't be able to
grow these outdoors where temperatures drop below freezing. The only "problem" with these
tender species is finding sources for buying them -- there aren't any.
Things are not always as back and white as we might
like them to be. I have come to learn
that plants such as Junos do differently in different parts of my garden. Some of it has to do with the amount of
invading tree roots, but there are other factors, such as how much drainage is
provided (i.e. coarseness, and type of soil), and even just the general layout
of one's property and it's affect on how quickly the soil dries out. In this last case, if the soil doesn't dry
out as fast as it might otherwise, then bulbs in it have more time to increase
in size before going dormant. Each of
these different spots in our gardens are microclimates. Some of them occur naturally so-to-speak, and
others we purposefully create for specific reasons.
If you plant a Juno in your garden and it dies or
doesn't appear to be doing well don't give up on that particular species. It may be that you need slightly different
conditions for it, or it may be that there were other reasons for the
problem. It's simply a matter of trying
to assess what the problem might be.
There have been numerous times when I've had newly purchased bulbs die
out for no clear reason, yet I have since been able to grow the species. There are also times when it seemed like I
had the right microclimate for a species, only to find out that it died out in
that location over the course of a couple of years. Fortunately I try to grow each species in
several different spots in the garden, so usually at least one of the spots
ends up being a good long-term one.
Of course you may be saying that you simply want Junos
which you can stick anywhere in the garden and have them do well. If that's the case I would refer you back to bucharica and magnifica, as well as to some of the hybrids that have recently
become commercially available, and which are masquerading as species (see
'Mistaken Identity, Etc.').
One question that you need to ask yourself is: how
"good" is the clone that you're trying? Would you believe bucharica is not always a good doer? The wholly yellow form PF8223 collected by
Paul Furse has taken quite a long time to bloom for me, yet I have been growing
it in one of my better spots for Junos.
This is not to be taken to suggest that wholly yellow clones all do
poorly -- I have one clone obtained from a Czech source which has consistently
bloomed for 3 years in a row (4 other bulbs received with it have yet to bloom,
and they are mature bulbs. Perhaps
they're too crowded. The bulbs had been
sent as vicaria. Time will tell if they are also wholly yellow
bucharicas or vicarias).
I have several bulbs of two commercial bucharica clones which are planted side
by side. There is a very noticeable
difference between the two: one had quite a number of blooms, the other only a
few, and it was slightly shorter in height.
There was nothing else unique about the latter one, so given its poorer performance
I tossed it out last fall.
Clearly you have no way of knowing how good a clone is
unless you are able to get your hands on others and grow them beside the ones
you already have. You may not be
interested in doing this, but it can lead to some interesting "finds"
Your goal should be to propagate good clones, toss
poor clones, and keep some of the mediocre ones for genetic diversity. After a few years, a point is reached when
you have surplus bulbs. Ideally you then
need to find a way of getting them into the hands of others who can continue to
propagate them, thus ensuring their continued survival in cultivation. In some ways, the best way of doing this, is
to start up a small bulb business.
Unfortunately for most of us this is a hassle. The whole reason we're growing Junos and
other plants is for the love of them. We
have limited time for our hobby, and if we were to have any more spare time we
would very likely want to spend it doing other things. Yet, a small bulb business is possibly the
best way of distributing one's better clones. I believe that one of the reasons willmottiana (true) died out in
cultivation earlier this century was because it wasn't distributed widely. Personally, I know I want to focus any of my
excess time on research and writing; something that I've been doing in earnest
for over 4 years now. Yet, I do have
clones that need to get into other enthusiasts hands.
You will notice that after some species names I put
"(true)". This is to emphasise
that I am talking about the bonified species itself and not a mis-identified
Juno being sold under that name. I tend
to use "hort." after mis-identified species (ie. horticultural form),
though "hort." can also refer to a genuine clone of the species in
commerce (eg. aucheri hort.). See 'Mistaken Identity, Etc.'
I won't say much about pot culture other than that it
can be used to grow Junos which you wouldn't be otherwise able to. Keep in mind you have to put effort into
looking after them. If you slip up, they
could die (more likely from over watering rather than under watering). Key: water from the bottom; allow the soil to
nearly dry before re-watering; use a soil mix with reasonably good drainage,
but not to the extent of pure sand -- water uptake into the soil would be
poor. It may be best to taper off the
watering just prior to the plants starting to die down.
In the mid 1980s my primary Juno plantings were in a
raised bed of coarse sand. The area was
within a 3 to 4 foot high wooden frame (like a miniature building), enclosed on
it's sides by sheet metal, and covered during the summer with sheets of clear
acrylic (forming a sloped roof). I
referred to this as my Juno hut. It
seemed the safest place for Junos, since I could generally allow Mother Nature
to look after them, but starting in late spring, I could use the acrylic cover
to keep rain off. Literature suggested
the scourge of Junos was excess moisture.
The intent was that once a plant multiplied I would
try a piece of it elsewhere. In some
cases starting a Juno off in the hut worked well (eg. albomarginata & warleyensis),
and in others it didn't (eg. parvula
& willmottiana). For one thing, sand is not the best medium to
promote increase, but then slow increase is better than risking a prized
plant! However I believe one summer I
allowed the hut to get a bit too hot and dry, resulting in loss of two kuschakewicziis which had consistently
bloomed there for several years (at least that's the only thing I can think of
that might be attributed to their death).
A few other kuschakewicziis
elsewhere in the hut survived.
I still have my Juno hut, but I now plant most of my
new Junos straight into raised sandy loam beds out in the open. The only exceptions to this are nicolai, rosenbachiana, and warleyensis. These are actually planted in a section of
very coarse sand within the Juno hut.
Several rosenbachianas died
out over time in the coarse sand (concrete sand). Several others in the very coarse sand have
continued to do well and bloom. I
actually have all three species growing out in the open. They seem to do slightly better in the
hut. For the past three years I haven't
bothered to cover the Juno hut during the summer, and the bulbs have done
fine. The only exception has been caucasica, which hasn't been blooming as
well as it had. So this past summer I
covered the area above it. I'll see
whether bloom is improved in 1995.
and caucasica need a baking during
the summer. This showed itself quite
evidently in 1993 by virtue of the fact that not one of my aucheris bloomed (except for a couple imported the previous
fall). This was in spite of having more
than 50 bloom stalks consistently for prior years.
During the summer of 1992 we had 15 weekends in a row
with at least some rain. Normally the
grass turns brown, but not so that summer.
As a result the aucheri bulbs
did not get the baking they normally would.
All of my other Junos were unaffected.
This suggests that, like Reticulatas, flower development occurs in August. It's interesting to note that this is at a
time when any new bulbs you've ordered have not yet been planted. In contrast, Dutch and Spanish Iris flowers
form in April.
likes to be baked, its bulbs do not increase well if grown in pure sand or very
porous soil. They have a difficult time
getting back up to bloom size. I have
some which haven't bloomed for at least 5 years (it's about time that I moved
them: I had left them in that spot just to see how they would do). Aucheri
does fairly well in sandy loam soil. It
even seems to do fairly well in sand loam soil that has been invaded by maple
tree roots. However, I have some aucheri hort. bulbs in good sandy loam
which bloomed, then took two years to bloom again. I had fully expected consistent bloom, and am
baffled as to why I didn't get it. Some aucheri Leylek clones in good sandy loam
soil haven't bloomed in the 3 years that I've had them in that location. The bulbs increase well number-wise, but
don't bloom. I can only figure that they
must specifically be poor clones. Other aucheri
Leylek clones in similar situations bloom well.
Dwarf aucheri (nusairiensis hort.) does only so, so --
it didn't do well once the tree roots invaded.
It is now doing well in a location which is just starting to be invaded
by maple tree roots. However, I still
need another two years before I can really say for sure how well it does there.
does well in coarse sand. I am trying it
in sandy loam, but don't feel the bulbs are doing all that well. It may be that caucasica needs a particularly good summer baking. The sandy loam situation I have it in is in
the open garden, and it may be that the bulbs would do better if they had a
cover to keep even the low amount of summer rain we usually get off.
A slight word of caution however. Don't let your bulbs over
"bake". As well as my loosing
some kuschakewicziis (as mentioned
above), Panyoti Kelaidis lost a number of warleyensis. Just because some species like to be baked
doesn't mean they all do.
is doing quite well outside of the hut, after being started off in it. I still keep a bulb of albomarginata in the hut "just in case". I expect though, that a couple more years of
experience will show that, that really isn't necessary.
bloomed in the Juno hut, but died out after 2 or 3 years, whereas it's doing
well in sandy loam soil that's been invaded by maple tree roots.
My first bulb of willmottiana
(true) died out in the hut during it's first winter in my garden. I was quite disappointed over this and I
wished I had planted it out in the open garden.
However it's hard to say what the problem really was. It might have died regardless. The willmottianas
(true) I have now are doing quite well out in the open, and they seem
(true) is quite a lovely
species. It has only recently been
reintroduced into cultivation. It is
clearly closely related to kuschakewiczii. I particularly like a powder blue form which
Kew Gardens in England has. Let's hope
it can continually be passed amongst enthusiasts who can insure it's survival
I did have had one additional problem with a willmottiana clone. Upon investigating why its leaves weren't
coming up, I found the bulb's whole base had rotted. The rot was proceeding towards the top of the
bulb. I had received the single bulb the
previous fall, and it seemed to be in perfect health when it was planted. I had hoped to cross it with my other willmottiana clone, rather than just
selfing the latter as I had been doing.
I treat this incident as just a fluke: don't give up,
something strange happened and you will likely succeed next time. This same sort of thing happen with purchased
cycloglossa bulbs. I had cycloglossa
coming from seed, but one year I went ahead and purchased 2 bulbs. They rotted the following spring, yet they
had appeared fine when planted. It's
disappointing to say the least when something like this happens. I have also had at least one Crocus species
die in its first year here, only to have it thrive and multiply very well after
I can only wonder if the problem is just something
related to getting acclimatized, or a dislike to being moved.
I can't understand for the life of me why I can't grow
kopetdagensis (true). It just keeps dieing out no matter where I
try it; and this is inspite of the fact it comes from 1000 - 3000 m where
temperatures are said to get down to -30°C.
I have also had difficulty with fosteriana and narbutii. These two survive but don't do all that well
in the open garden. I'm not willing to
move them for fear they'll dislike the spot I move them to even more, and as a
result, die: a catch 22.
It's been my experience that vicaria bulbs don't tend to increase in number. A few clones do increase, though somewhat
slowly, while others for all intents and purposes, don't increase at all. If you want to get them to increase then you
have to force them to do so by cutting off a bit of basal plate and roots (see
As you may be seeing from what I've written, it
actually takes quite a few years to learn what is best for Junos. In some cases, it may start off appearing
like you have a good spot for a given species, but if it doesn't survive more
than 3 or 4 years, then clearly the spot was not a good one.
Yes, excess moisture is a problem with Junos, however
here in Toronto we don't get enough excess moisture to cause problems. English gardens, or the west coast of North
America may be wetter, making growing Junos much more difficult. Even the unusual summer of 1992 with 14 wet
weekends in a row didn't have any ill effects on my bulbs. It may have been that my soil dried out
reasonably well between the rainy days.
Elaine Hulbert (Virginia, U.S.A.) has some difficulty
with Junos outdoors since in early spring, they have a tendency to put on a
fair amount of grow during warm spells, only to get hit hard by cold
weather. Often their leaves and flowers
are badly damaged. One form of bucharica has been "frozen
back" three times in the past five years, and has bloomed only once since
she moved to Virginia. "When the
plants are just in early growth I don't worry about frost at all." It's when they are in full growth that
significant damage can occur. "Caucasica comes up late enough, with aucheri, but couldn't take the cold as
well as aucheri."
Maurice Boussard (France) mentioned, "all of them
have to be grown in a limy but well drained ground. They are sun-lovers. Hardiness is good: withstand the occasional
frost of -15°C with their bulbs embedded in hard frozen ground."
Henrik Zetterlund (Sweden) wrote, "the
large-growing and late-flowering Junos are quite easy. Most will survive in the rock garden but they
need frequent division in order to remain healthy. However, the best place to grow them in
Gothenburg is in the glass covered frames in our bulb garden. Here the compost is rich and deep and species
like warleyensis are capable of
building up large clumps."
Brian Mathew (England) wrote in 'Flowering Bulbs For
The Garden': "...on the whole little known in gardens, mainly because the
majority of them are difficult to grow even in an alpine house or bulb
frame. There are, however, a few which
are easy and these can be cultivated in the open garden in a sunny,
well-drained site where the bulbs receive a warm dryish period after they have
dried down in summer.
The bulbs are unusual in having an ordinary-looking
bulb but with thick fleshy roots attached to its base."
An interesting point concerning cultivation: at the
1963 international Iris conference in Florence Dr Rodionenko commented
"Iris songarica, which covers in
USSR an extent over 3000 square miles of a more or less dark blue colour; in
Leningrad [St. Petersburg] it is quite impossible to cultivate it. It thrives only in desert districts. In Leningrad, five years are sometimes
necessary to obtain a young shoot from songarica. At Tashkent, brushes are made from
Clearly, ease of cultivation of any plant varies
greatly. Your experience will depend on
the exact conditions inherent where you live.
The one thing that will help make Junos more popular
is the development of hardy, easy to grow plants (like bucharica and magnifica). Purists will shudder, but this can be
obtained through interspecies hybrids such as the relatively recent
introductions: "bucharica x aucheri", "graeberiana dark form", and willmottiana hort. Without plants like these, Junos won't gain
the overall popularity that they should.
Variation of Species
One area I'm quite fascinated in, is the variation of
species. When I first started growing
plants, I grew, just like most of you, what I was able to obtain from various
nurseries. It appeared that once I had bucharica, that was it, I had bucharica. Certainly I would have said this was
especially true of caucasica. I had thought for example that caucasica was fairly uniform /
singular. This was the case when I found
it in the wild. However, I now have two
interesting variants, so my current assessment is that 98% of all caucasicas are the typical yellow-green
colour, etc. -- very high, but certainly no longer 100%.
In the case of bucharica,
my assessment is currently that roughly 80% are the typical whitish and
orangish-yellow combination. However the
amount of variation in terms of other characteristics, although still narrow,
is much wider than that of caucasica. Perhaps 5 to 10% of the remaining 20%, are
wholly yellow forms.
Originally I was under the misconception that some
species came in one form and only one form, with only very minor variations
from it; and in a few cases perhaps 2 or 3 colour forms. This stemmed from the fact that a lot of
species available in the trade are only available in this fashion. For example, there is only one aucheri,
one caucasica, one graeberiana, two magnificas,
In a sense, one thinks that they can grow all of the
species that exist of a particular plant genus / subgenus. The reality is quite otherwise. Generally speaking, plants in the wild vary
significantly and, so-to-speak, those in commerce form only the "tip of the
iceberg". This is actually very
exciting. Think of the beautiful things
that are just waiting to be discovered.
Think of all the beautiful hybrids that could be created ...and when one
looks a little deeper, the potential for developing better hardiness, thicker
substance, more reliable bloom, etc.
Josef Halda wrote in a letter, "Junos, especially
in Tadjikistan and Uzbekistan are a big taxonomic problem. Almost all of those are highly polymorphic
and each hill has its own, sometimes very different form (but only a
form)... It is too big country to
generalize and many mountain ranges and valleys are quite virgin -- many
collections exist only in our private herbarium and each year I am again and
again surprised with new discoveries.
Junos - they are able to hybridize with each other, probably a very
young group and not so stabilized (genetically)."
Often we separate species on the basis of whether
their hafts are winged or not. Some
species are actually more semi-winged than truly winged. And other species which are unwinged,
specifically bucharica, have forms
that appear to be semi-winged.
The hort. form of aucheri
(of which there are several related clones) is quite nice. There are however other forms which are even
more striking. There is no single best aucheri clone, rather there is a subset
(a handful or more), which are the best.
With different clones, some may be more fertile than
others. "So what" you say --
one point concerns hybridizing: just because a cross doesn't work with one set
of parents doesn't mean it won't work.
You may find the cross will work if different clones are used.
The bloom times shown in Figure 1 are 95% based on
1994. Nusairiensis (true) didn't bloom in 1994 for example, so it's bloom
period was estimated based on previous year's.
I have never recorded planifolia's
dates, so what I've shown for it is approximate. Since my planifolias
are grown in pots, bloom dates are somewhat dependent on when I start giving
them water. I have a few other tender
Junos in pots. They have yet to bloom.
Exact bloom times vary from year to year. In the four years that I have been recording
bloom dates I have found the start of Juno bloom can vary by 8 days (nicolai starting April 3rd), and the end
can vary by 21 days (cycloglossa
ending as early as May 28, to as late as June 19). Some species have more than one bar on Figure
1 indicating distinct bloom times in different parts of my garden. A given clone's bloom period can be extended
by planting some bulbs in locations that receive a lot of sun in early April,
thus allowing them to get a jump on spring.
Other bulbs can be planted in areas that are the last to loose their
snow. Having some extra mulch can help
keep the ground frozen a while longer, thus delaying the bulbs' growth. Once the ground thaws above the bulbs, get
the straw off to allow the bulb's stem to grow properly, minimize damage caused
by bugs eating the succulent new growth, etc.
'Max. Flowers' in Figure 1 is the maximum number of
flowers per bulb that I've observed to date.
The minimum is of course is one (ie. the bulb is just big enough to give
Yearly Growth Cycle
Foster wrote in 'Bulbous Irises' (1892): "If you
study the history of the plant during the yearly cycle of its life, you will
find that, as the foliage and bloom are developed, these thick roots shrink and
disappear; when the plant is at the height of its vegetation, only their
shriveled remains are to be seen. But as
the leaves are withering in the ripening process, new roots of the same kind
are formed, which become thick and stout, like the new bulb which is forming
while the leaves of the past season fade and depart. Obviously these thick finger-like roots are,
like the thickened coats of the bulb itself, stores of nourishment for the
coming plant. In Xiphium the plant
possesses such stores only in the thick coats of the bulb itself; in Iris persica the plant can fall back upon the
supplementary stores afforded by these peculiar thick, fat root."
Division of Bulbs
Usually I divide my Junos every 2 to 3 years (the
clump forming ones). I have sometimes
wondered if this is a good practice because I feel they don't bloom as well the
next year (I have never kept records to know for sure). In part it seems like a second bulb or a side
shoot is needed to help the flowers bloom.
Quite likely though, this is just a misconception. It may appear this way because, if one checks
bulbs that have bloomed, they find the bulbs often have either "split" into
two, or at least have a side shoot (the bulbs don't actually physically split,
they just give the appearance that they have).
Since I haven't been willing to experiment because of wanting to have
good bloom, I've tended to take the conservative approach, and divide clumps
leaving either two bulbs, or a bulb and side shoot together.
I know for a fact that with some plants, particularly
Siberian Irises, transplanting definitely causes setback. I typically have very poor bloom the
following year, and it seems to take 2 years to get back up to good bloom. I have seen similar things with Junos. Quite possibly it may be happening only to
certain species. It certainly isn't
happening to all of the Junos I transplant.
It may be due to the timing of when the bulbs are
lifted, but I'm not clear on this.
Generally once I lift the bulbs I replant them very shortly
afterwards. Even this brief interval is
enough to cause noticeably fewer blooms the next year (in at least some cases).
A word of caution: when digging Junos, insert your
shovel well back from the bulbs in order to somewhat minimize the amount of
their primary roots that you are going to chop off. Inveritably some of the roots will get
chopped, especially since they can be quite long. Also, be sure to loosen the soil by rocking
your shovel back and forth before pulling on a bulb to remove it. It is actually best to work your fingers
under the bulb and then pull up. Atleast
once a year I end up pulling on a bulb that I though had been loosened, only to
rip the bulb off of its basal plate -- yiks!! (see below)
New Bulbs from Roots
Roots with a bit of the basal plate attached can be
made to form a new bulb. The new bulblet
will form on the basal plate. If a root
doesn't have any basal plate attached, then toss it -- it's only going to
rot. Some techniques for handling the
basal plate portions require dry conditions, while others require moisture
(slightly damp sphagnum moss). It is
best to allow cut areas of the basal plate to dry before proceeding. A properly dried basal plate can then simply
be stored in a plastic bag in a cool environment. After two or three months you should find
some new bulblets have formed. Ideally you could cut off some pieces of basal
plate soon after your Junos go dormant so that the new bulblets can be planted
out in the fall. Or you could just as
easily cut off the pieces of basal plate in the fall, and then plant them in
the garden as soon as their "wounds" have healed.
It is my belief that the basal plate and new bulblet
must be planted close to the soil surface in order to be successful. Any deeper and they may not have enough
energy to get a leaf up to the soil surface.
Note: be sure to protect with mulch, but remove the mulch as soon as
your other Junos start to come up.
Clearly it's the starch in the primary roots that is
providing the energy for forming the new bulblet on the basal plate.
Bulbs that have been riped off of their basal plate
can be saved. However they do seem to be
a bit more tricky to handle than portions of basal plate. If you allow the bulb to properly dry, it can
then be stored in a plastic bag (to prevent it from drying out too much during
hot summer months). After a month or two
you will find root nubs forming by the ripped scales.
Again, plant the bulbs just below the soil surface so
they can easily get a leaf up in the spring.
I'm only going to speak briefly about pests here, and
I won't be saying anything about diseases.
Basically Junos are trouble free.
The pests and diseases I could mention are typically only of minor
significance. I have had slight problems
with slugs in recent years -- they want to eat the tender emerging shoots in
Spring. The local slug population seems
to have exploded since I started keeping a reasonable amount of leaves and
straw left on the garden. Originally the
straw was being used as winter protection (see below). It then seemed to make sense to leave some of
the material on the garden in order to help keep the beds from drying out as
summer approached; conceivably extending the growing season for the bulbs
slightly. It appears however that a
proper balance needs to be struck regarding the amount of material left on the
beds at a given time. I'm certainly not
looking for extra work. It would appear
that the proper method would be to take nearly all of the straw and leaves off
in early spring: the ground would be essentially bare and the sun would be able
to keep the area around new shoots relatively dry. Then as summer approaches and temperatures
start to rise, material can be put back on for moisture control and to try to
extend the growing season, with the aim of producing slightly larger bulbs.
Hybridizing is easy and fun. It's simply a matter of taking the pollen
from one plant and applying it to the stigmatic lip of another (just under the
tip of the style arm -- pull the lip down and apply). Because of the genetic diversity of Junos not
all of the species will intercross with each other. Bucharica
won't work, but the reverse will
(ie. graeberiana x bucharica). The seeds are a bit small, but they are
Seeds should be collected just prior to ripening (pod
starting to turn brown and / or to split open).
It is best to take them out of their pods as soon as possible. They should be stored so that air can
circulate around them. This is necessary
to prevent mould from growing on them.
My experience with Juno seed germination to-date has
been very poor -- so poor that I haven't wanted to record the results and find
out what it really is. You might think
for Reticulatas is bad. With Junos it's
even worse!! However, some interesting
hybrids have been successfully raised from seed, making all the effort
I protect my Junos and Reticulatas with straw
"just in case". A cover of
straw, leaves, or other mulch keeps the ground frozen even if the air
temperature stays above freezing for several days. It's the seedlings I most want to protect,
but I now mulch all of the beds. Since
seedlings are close to the soil surface, they are susceptible to being fooled
into growth. I believe I lost quite a
number of Reticulata seedlings in the mid 1980s to this.
How much cold a plant can survive depends on how good
it's antifreeze system is, coupled with how quickly the antifreeze can be
brought into effect. Clearly, it doesn't
matter if a plant can withstand -100°C if it can be fooled into active growth
(resulting in raising the cell's freezing point), with a week of warm
temperatures. Follow that with a sudden
return to very cold temperatures, and... wipe out!
Be sure to use straw not hay. The last thing we need in our garden is more
Something to remember: pictures of a plant can be
misleading. Specifically: colours can be
off; soft colours and markings can be washed out; details can be missing as a
result of being just slightly out of focus; information can be lost due to
trying to show too much in one photo, and even due to not showing enough; etc. To properly "picture" a Juno you
need a number of good quality pictures taken from different angles and
distances from the plant. For some
strange reason I find albomarginata
particularly difficult to photograph.
Don't forget, pictures can be mislabelled -- a number of cases exist in
Do bulbs have a limited life? Clearly animals do. Trees for example have a limited life. Nicolai
is regarded as being almost monocarpic (meaning, the bulbs seem to die after
producing seed), insinuating that you should prevent it from going to seed,
however this is not really true. I have
a number nicolai and rosenbachiana bulbs which have been
producing seed for several years. It may
just be that once a bulb has produced seed it is somewhat weak, and in slightly
damper climates than Toronto, disease is more able to successfully attack the
Problems with Registering Bulbous Iris Hybrids
Bulbous Irises are registered with the Royal General
Bulb Growers' Association in Holland.
Rhizomous Irises are registered with the American Iris Society. The only problem with this, is bulbous Iris
are not eligible for American Iris Society awards since they weren't registered
with the American Iris Society: a "catch 22" which as a result,
doesn't encourage Americans to hybridize bulbous Iris.
Approximately every ten years a classified list of
varieties is published. The most recent
is dated 1991, with Iris filling 44 pages of 409. Generally only varieties being produced
commercially, or registered since the previous list, are shown.
Royal General Bulb Growers' Association
Parklaan 5, P.O.B.
Junos are not as commercially available as they should
be. You can purchase them from bulb
specialist nurseries such as Potterton & Martin in England, and Bulbs
d'Opal in France. Most bulbs cost over
$7.50 U.S. each, with all costs factored in (postage, and phytosanitary
certificate). My philosophy is: gett'em
while you can. Numerous times I've seen
species available only for a year or two and that's it. With the exception of bucharica, Junos are not like other bulbs which are available year
after year without fail.
Unfortunately, most bulb nurseries are just
wholesaling bulbs. They aren't growers
propagating their own plants. They tend to
be focused on whatever is most popular, plus things that they can put high mark
ups on. Of course they end up being
stuck with whatever bulbs they can't sell; which doesn't encourage them to sell
things with low demand. Nurseries that
grow some of their own bulbs can simply replant any bulbs they don't sell. If their supply of a species builds up, then
it's just a matter of lowering the price in hopes of increasing sales. Hopefully that point is reached well before
the grower decides he could more profitably grow something else entirely.
Another source is Juno enthusiasts. It's quite possible you can obtain better
clones from an enthusiast than you could commercially. Enthusiasts however may be more interested in
trading plants with other enthusiasts than in straight selling plants. We all have only a limited amount of spare
time, and there's just not enough to do everything you might like to.
I should point out that sometimes you can pay less
than $7.50 per bulb. More likely than
not what you are going to get is undersized bulbs which will take two or more
years to reach bloom size. This is fine
if the bulbs are clearly identified as needing a year or two to get up to
Would You Believe...
Paul Furse, April 1963 JRHS: "There were Juno Irises
of persica type [actually hymenospatha] which the wild pig dug far
more ruthlessly than we did..." [in Iran]
Paul Furse comments about bucharica in Afghanistan in the 1965 BIS Year Book, "...[growing
on limestone] cliff ledges, out of reach of flocks [of sheep] and of shepherds
who eat them!!"
Did You Know...
some Junos have
crests on their falls, while others have only slightly raised ridges. Most of the crested ones are smooth along
their top edge, but some are hairy.
some Juno falls
are winged, some are straight, and some are semi-winged.
there are 55
species excluding subspecies. More may
be awaiting discovery.
either point downwards or flare horizontally.
there are at least
3 distinct seed types: "nubbed"; "with a white edge";
"round / square". In the
latter case, some are distinctly round and some are distinctly cubical, while
others come out of their pods cubical (from pushing on each other), but dry
the stem base of
some Junos is purple. A given species can
have clones with green bases, and clones with purple bases.
on rare occasions
Iris bore will go after Junos (lets hope they never develop a real taste for
bulbs can be sent
in the mail after fall root growth has started if they are wrapped in a
slightly damp paper towel and put into a plastic bag. Important: protect the bulbs from getting
Juno pollen looks
like soccer balls made up with 5-sided "pebbled" plates; occasionally
some are 6-sided. Bucharica's plates are very large, while rosebachiana's and parvula's
are much smaller, and thus more numerous.
continue to grow after flowering. If you
measure dwarf aucheri for example,
you will find it 15 cm in height at bloom, elongating to 20 to 24 cm at
fruiting (seed ripening)
you can plant
Junos in between other plants such as TBs, since their stalks will die down by
late June (Toronto timing)
some Juno species
form clumps while others don't
some species have
naturally smaller bulbs. Some species
have primary roots that are shorter in length, and / or narrower in diameter
Mistaken Identity, Etc.
Bucharica x aucheri: the flowers look a fair bit like bucharica, but they have distinct dark grey veins perpendicular to
the fall edge. It's quite likely that
the pollen parent was actually warleyensis:
for one thing the fall is unwinged.
Caucasica: as a point of interest:
back in the late 1800s there was a lot of confusion surrounding caucasica. If a plant was palish yellow then it was
thought to be a form of caucasica. Believe it or not, Regel thought albomarginata was a form of caucasica. He named it: caucasica var. coerulea.
Graeberiana 'Dark Form': actually it
is clearly a hybrid involving albomarginata.
If you've never seen albomarginata
then I can understand why someone might think it's related to graeberiana. Possibly the pollen parent is vicaria.
It has a yellow blotch around its crest.
It's quite a lovely robust Juno.
Kopetdagensis hort.: this plant is
either a form of vicaria, or a hybrid
involving vicaria. Its falls have a slight yellowish and
greenish cast to them. Fertile.
Kuschakewiczii was sold commercially
during the 1980s as albomarginata. That's the kind of mistake that you don't
mind having made since both are relatively rare. The only problem is that, until you realize
the mistake, you yourself will be misidentifying albomarginata, and possibly compound the problem in any writing you
do about your plants.
Nicolai, rosenbachiana, and baldschuanica:
there has been a fair bit of confusion surrounding these three. I believe they are each distinct
species. For now all I will say is that nicolai has bright yellow pollen, while rosenbachiana has white pollen and is,
as you might expect, rose in colour.
Nigel Service took pictures of a near Alba forms of rosenbachiana in the wild.
Nusairiensis hort.: these clones
only recently appeared commercially.
They are actually a dwarf form of aucheri
from Turkey. They are about 6" (15
cm) tall at bloom, extending to 8 to 12" (20 to 24 cm) by the time its
seeds ripen. They are coloured glassine
white to powder blue, sometimes white with light blue edge stitching. True nusairiensis
is only about 4" tall (10 cm) at bloom time, extending to 8" (20 cm)
by the time its seeds are ripe. The true
nusairiensis plants in cultivation
are slate blue in colour.
Orchioides hort. of the 1980's was
actually a more yellow form of bucharica. Back as far as Sir Michael Foster's day at
the turn of the century, yellow forms of bucharica
were clearly being confused as orchioides. Only recently has orchioides (true) appeared commercially. The forms available are bitoned yellows, with
no trace of violet (as is sometimes stated in catalogues).
Vicaria of old was actually magnifica
Willmottiana hort.: is a hybrid
likely involving magnifica, with
either willmottiana (true) or graeberiana as its pollen parent. It is tall like magnifica, and increases well.
(true) has only just recently reappeared.
The plants were wild collected and have a small amount of variation in
their shade of pale blue. Only one
nursery had bulbs available in 1994 at $30 each (excluding shipping,
etc.). It may be a couple of years
before willmottiana (true) is
available again commercially.
albomarginata A beautiful light blue species that is
fairly easy to grow, but a tad slow to increase. Unfortunately it isn't available
aucheri Quite a lovely species. Many forms are available, though not all
commercially. The hort. form is actually
several similar clones. Bulbs from
Leylek Station in Turkey range in colour from pure white to purple, with dark
blue forms being quite spectacular. All
shades of blue inbetween can be found, and some pale blues are quite gorgeous
due to their colour and shading, in combination with their flower shape. Bulbs from Bechηe, Turkey also had a dark
blue form, as well as a one clearly mauvish when compared to other clones
beside it. Height: 20 to 60 cm.
aucheri (nusairiensis hort.) is about 6" (15 cm) tall at bloom,
extending to 8 to 12" (20 to 24 cm) by the time its seeds ripen. Its colour ranges from glassine white to
pwder blue, sometimes white with light blue stitching on its fall edge.
Garden Society Bulletin, Dec 1967: "Iris aucheri is hardy in the open, but should be protected from spring
frosts which may damage the young foliage."
bucharica An excellent, easy to grow, species. Does very well in almost all situations. Clones: white styles and fall hafts, with
bright orangish-yellow fall blade (typical form); varying amounts of
orangish-yellow in the styles and fall hafts; wholly bright orangish-yellow.
we tend to say bucharica is yellow in
colour. It's actually more typically
orangish-yellow. I have a clone which is
distinctly lemon yellow.
caucasica Does well, but needs a hot summer to trigger
bloom formation. One of the last species
to bloom. Clones: yellow-green
(typical), often with two green ribs on the style arms; white with blue-green
ribs on the style arms (rare form); greyed yellow green (rare form).
cycloglossa Fairly easy, but may dislike being
moved. Grows in moist situations in the
wild during spring. It seem to do quite
well in pots outdoors with out additional watering. Easily grown from seed. It's the only Juno that doesn't really look
like a Juno. Very easily distinguished
by its large spoon-like standards.
Colour: blue with white around the ridge
fosteriana It has proved to be very difficult in my
garden. The only way to handle may be in
pots. Colour: yellow, with purple
galatica Somewhat tricky, but easier than persica.
Generally the flowers are dark reds.
graeberiana Fairly easy in the open garden. Does well in either pure sand, or sandy
loam. I now have a second clone, which
has a wider fall blade. Colour: mauve.
kopetdagensis (true) Very difficult in the garden. I am extremely surprised by this. The only way to handle it is likely in
pots. I have yet to try this. I thought there wouldn't be any problem with
it outdoors. Colour: greenish yellow
kuschakewiczii and orchioides seem to have done well out in
the open in sandy loam as well as in the Juno hut. Kuschakewiczii's
fall has a dark greyed-blue blotch with the rest of the flower being slightly
coloured dark greyed-blue.
linifolia It is quite similar to parvula. Both are dwarf pale
yellow Junos. Linifolia is the bigger of the two.
Linifolia has a yellow fall,
with a 3 mm edge of creamy white.
Typically the fall has a lot of very tiny "black"
speckles. The crest top is smooth
(unbroken). Parvula on the other hand is more grey-greenish yellow, sometimes
with a reddish purple influence. It has
a strong, but slightly dark yellow marking right beside its hairy crest. The picture in "The Bulb Book"
("Bulbs"), by Roger Phillips & Martyn Rix, 2nd edition, on page
68 is actually of linifolia, NOT parvula (the picture was not in the 1st
magnifica An excellent easy to grow species. This is one of the tallest Junos. It is also the most floriferous, with up to
12 flowers per stalk. It does very well
in most situations. Clones: white with
varying amounts of mauve which increase as the flowers age; an Alba form is
available which completely lacks any blue anthocyanin. A shorter clone may also exist, but I have
not tried it to see whether it is significantly shorter. In some forms the yellow blotch around its
crest is more of a yellow-orange.
maracandica Difficult! It is clearly related to the kuschakewiczii group. Colour: bright yellow.
nicolai Beautiful, but unfortunately difficult! Nicolai
can quickly be distinguished from others in it's group by its bright yellow
pollen. Colour: white with rich dark
velvety fall blades, and two wide dark red stripes on the back of its style
nusairiensis (true) Does well, but doesn't like the
soil too dry (ie. not pure sand or sandy loam with tree roots). It is only about 4" tall (10 cm) during
bloom, extending to 8" (20 cm) by the time its seeds are ripe. The plants in cultivation are slate blue in
orchioides (true) Bicolour of light yellow and strong
yellow-orange. It is very clearly
distinct by its widely winged falls: so wide that one fall's wings touch those
of the other falls. ==> gives a very
full look. Does well.
palaestina Tender, so needs pot culture. Maurice Boussard wrote "palaestina: flowered in mid-January. Not
very impressive (dull coloured -- a dirty greenish white), but probably the
most scented of all Junos, giving off an overwhelming pungent spicy scent,
reminiscent of the South African Ferraria crispa. It's very tender and prone to virus."
parvula Small, and obscure due to it's greyed yellow
flower. Will die out if allowed to get
too dry / if grown in pure sand. See
comments under linifolia.
persica The ease with which persica was said to have been grown in the 1600's must be a myth,
because it is very difficult to keep.
The only way persica could
have been grown is to receive bloom-sized bulbs and then toss them after
blooming (what a waste of such a beautiful plant). Very variable colours, including browns (from
light sand brown to reddish brown).
planifolia Tender, so needs pot culture, but rewarding
with its winter blooms. Medium blue,
with white by its yellow ridge.
pseudocaucasica Surprisingly very difficult. I have not been very successful in growing it
in spite of the fact it is found just south of where caucasica grows in Turkey; and caucasica
is a fairly good doer here. Clones: pale
yellow; blue (rare).
rosenbachiana Very beautiful, but unfortunately
difficult! Not one for the
"beginner". As you might
expect, it is rose in colour. A nearly
white form exists in the wild.
stenophylla (sometimes called tauri)
Fairly easy. Deep purple, with
white veins, ridge yellow, no crest. I
believe stenophylla is likely the
pollen parent of 'Sindpers', due to the fact that good solid seeds are easily
produced with aucheri as pod
parent. Colour: purple.
vicaria Easy, but surprisingly tends not to
multiply. Some forms markedly more
beautiful than others. It is easy to
distinguish from magnifica by the
fact it's falls are unwinged. Clones:
pure white; white with mauve standards; white with narrow or wide purple veins;
light mauve with veining. All have
yellow blotches around the crest, occasionally also colouring the crest. Typically there are two purplish ribs on the
back of each style arm.
warleyensis Beautiful!! Not too difficult if given dry
conditions. I have tried a couple of
other locations in the garden. Results are inconclusive (which is to say I have
had some problems). For now I am
exercising caution with new clones and putting them in very coarse sand where
they have done well. Clones: near white;
wholly purple; and the typical form which has the appearance of being white
with a rich velvety purple fall blade (the styles actually have light purple
willmottiana (true) An exquisite pale blue which does
well in sandy loam. Clones: light blue
to dark blue, all with a pure white patch on the fall blade.
zaprjagajewii Should be somewhat difficult since it is
related to nicolai and rosenbachiana. I have a number of seedlings coming along in
pure coarse sand. Colour: white.
Some Specific Questions and Answers:
Q : Are Junos difficult? Persica
is perceived to be difficult, as are nicolai
and rosenbachiana: Is this really the case?
A: In its simplest sense the answer is
yes. If all you're wanting is to stick a
few bulbs in your garden for consistent bloom year after year, then you'd best
stick to bucharica, magnifica, and some of the recently
introduced hybrids that are masquerading as species.
If on the other
hand you are willing to put a bit of effort in (and it doesn't have to be too
much), then its very likely you'll be able to grow nicolai and rosenbachiana. However, my suggestion would be to try others
like kuschakewiczii and orchioides first, since they are a bit
easier as well as less expensive. Persica unfortunately is a bit more
tricky, and I wouldn't say that I really have a good feel for what it
wants. Pseudocaucasica and kopetdagensis
(true) are really mysteries as far as I am concerned. They both die no matter where I plant them in
Q : Should you buying Juno bulbs that lack
A: Buy them.
It's a myth that Junos without roots won't bloom. Bulb size plays a greater roll in determining
whether a bulb will bloom. A small bulb
with lots of roots likely won't bloom!
So evaluating a bulb based on whether it has roots is nonsense. One year I bought some bulbs of aucheri from a bulb retailer. The bulbs turned out to be huge, but completely
lacked roots. The grower had clearly cut
off the side shoots, keeping the roots attached. The bulbs bloomed quite well the following
species have naturally small bulbs.
Q : How deep should Junos be planted?
A: Generally the tip of the bulb should be about
5 cm (2 inches) below ground. This can
be slightly deeper in sand. Bulblets,
and roots with basal plate attached should be planted about 1 cm below the soil
surface; any deeper and they'll likely just die (ie. not have enough energy to
get a leaf up).
Q : Should Junos be fertilized?
A: A bit of low nitrogen fertilizer in late fall
and early spring is useful. I haven't
yet studied the effects of fertilizer on Junos, but I do apply small
quantities. Junos are said to like lime,
but I haven't yet gotten around to studying whether adding lime to my soil
makes much difference.
A Few Questions To Leave You With:
i) How did Junos evolve? How did they spread from central Asia to the
Mediterranean? When did the first Junos
appear, and what did they look like as they evolved? Why do we find various species where they
ii) What results would you expect if two species
are crossed? What results would you
expect if your hybridizing program favoured one or two species?
iii) How can you tell the difference between willmottiana and kuschakewiczii; between bucharica,
orchioides and maracandica; between linifolia
and parvula; between nicolai and rosenbachiana; between magnifica
iv) Why is it that some species are slightly
more difficult than others; particularly ones that come from the same general
areas in the wild?
v) How would you distinguish an white form of bucharica from a typical white form of vicaria?
And conversely, how would you distinguish a yellow form of vicaria from a similarly coloured form
vi) Why not add at least two new Juno species to
your garden this year?
The Last Word
There's a lot more that we could talk about, but for
that you'll have to wait for my book ...at 290+ pages what else can I call
it? Currently I'm actually envisioning a
CD ROM disk with the text plus more than 200 pictures. For now my main focus is simply to get all of
the text written, which, with my increasingly limited spare time, could still
take another two years. Once that's done
I can look into the best way of getting the material published. I already have more than 200 pictures.