Iris ensata • Japanese Iris • アヤメ • 菖蒲 • ayame
There are several beds of multicolored Japanese irises around the pond: one by wisteria trellis along E path (area K), one on the north end of the pond (area Q), and one down at the pond level behind whipping European white birch planted by Princess Michiko in 1960 (area V) along the W path.
When the Plant Committee asked Kathy Blanchard (the senior gardener in 2011) to help us identify what types of irises we have, she wrote back:
We have many different varieties and mixed them up in all the beds as per Masa’s suggestion. Some varieties were too delicate and died off. To make accuracy more difficult, when I ordered them, there weren’t any photos and they weren’t blooming. I tried to make sure that the combinations matched by the descriptions so the planting would stay harmonious. So it would be very difficult to get an accurate count on what is there. If you want to list the varieties I would suggest that there are “iris beds containing the following varieties —, —,—-, etc. .“
So, the iris beds contain the following varieties (from Kathy’s shopping receipt): Gracieuse, Shogun, Double Delight, Geisha Girl, Temple Bells, Picotee Wonder, Cry of Rejoice, Henry’ White, Jedojima, variegate, My Fuji.
From wikipedia: The term “Japanese iris” (Iris ensata, including Iris kaempferi) encompasses three varieties of Irises cultivated in gardens or growing wild in Japan: hanashōbu, kakitsubata and ayame. The species I. japonica (fringed or crested iris) is dealt with under that heading. […] Go to the link for the famous iris tanka poem which is said to have been written in this area during the Heian period, as it appears in The Tales of Ise by Ariwara no Narihira..
From King County Iris Society: Japanese Irises, the Hanashobu of Japan
The huge ruffled dinner plate size flowers of the Japanese iris have been developed over centuries in Japan. They have been developed from one species I. ensata. The species has fairly wide falls which hang down and small narrow upright standards. The color is a deep red violet or maroon. They are still sometimes referred to as I. kaempferi which was the former name of the species I. ensata. It has probably been cultivated in Japan for over 500 years. They are referred to as hanashobu in Japan. You may also hear the terms Edo, Higo and Ise used to classify Japanese irises. Following is a brief description and history of these three types of Japanese irises.
When Japanese irises were first cultivated in Japan there were many color variations of the species found in the Asaka marshes near Tokyo that are not known today in the wild. These were collected and hybridized. They were raised in fields and had to withstand the rigors of an outdoor garden. They had a wide range of colors and patterns but were more simple in form. These became known as Edo varieties, Edo being the old name of Tokyo. […]
There is a Society for Japanese Irises – open to anyone in the world, primarily the amateur gardener who enjoys growing Japanese irises, but also including iris specialists, gardening experts and horticulturists; it contains interesting articles and links related to irises.