Iris Laevigata – Rabbit Ear Iris
Japanese water iris or Rabbit ear irisis arguably the most important iris for growing in water. It originated in Japan, hence its common name, and has been used throughout the centuries in Oriental literature and iconography. The West has accepted this particular iris as a symbol of elegance and peace.
The three-petalled blooms of straightare about 12.5cm (5in) across, and are borne on 60cm (2ft) high stems. The first open in early summer, and are a clear blue-violet with a yellow line down the centre of each petal. If plants are enjoying life in the right conditions, a second flush of flowers may appear in late summer or early autumn.
There are many varieties of I. laevigata, but among the best is ‘Alba’, with its pure white, single blooms; ‘Snowdrift’, on the other hand, has double flowers; ‘Mottled Beauty’ has white flowers with pale mauve mottling at the base, while ‘Elegante’ has white flowers with heavy dark blue edging. One of the most popular cultivars, with similar white and dark blue markings, is the double flowered ‘Colchesterensis’ (sometimes seen as ‘Colchesteri’). ‘Variegata’ has a pale blue single flower with a green and white variegated flag.
Regardless of its vigour, it is certainly worth a place in the water garden, The species produces large golden flowers and brown signal flashes, it needs a lot of room in which to grow, so should only be planted into a medium to large pond. There are a number of excellent varieties, one of the most popular is ‘Flore Pleno’: this is a hose-in-hose iris, which means that the flower is constructed from many blooms, each one growing inside another.
More diminutive are ‘Golden Queen’, a completely golden iris with no brown signal flashes, andvar bastardii, a cream variety with pale brown signals. For something completely different you could always try ‘Ecru’, an almost white flower with dark brown signals. ‘Alba’ is a pale creamy white form with brown signals, and ‘Roy Davidson’ has golden yellow flowers, heavily veined with brown down the whole of the petal, making the flower look extremely dark and inviting. ‘Variegata’ has golden flowers with deep yellow and green variegated leaves. The actual variegation is not stable, meaning
The yellow flag iris is the most common of water irises, and roots of it will grow vigorously. It will, within reason, grow in any depth of water. This iris can be extremely prolific, spreading rapidly across the pond.
It is possible to roughly chop up small sections with leaves and weigh them down in 37cm (15in) of water, and for the plant to grow away with great success. If you have a smallish pond, it would be sensible to divide your clump every couple of years for the best results.