Fairy Fingers

'Fairy Fingers' Siberian Iris

"White Iris was a princess
In a kingdom long ago
Mysterious as moonlight
And silent as the snow."

-Bliss Carman

"So, they are dead! Love! when they passed
From thee to me, our fingers met;
O withered darlings of the May!
I feel those fairy fingers yet."

-Henry Timrod


'Fairy Fingers' Siberian iris looks wild & primitive, but is a hybrid introduced by Cleveland growers Dorothy & Tony Willot in 1991. It has tiny two-inch white incurved flowers with yellow signals on the falls. The multi-flowering stems rise to around two feet, the slender strappy foliage to a foot & a half. An old clump can get taller.

The cultivar name 'Fairy Fingers' is also an old folk-name for foxgloves, with magical associations. With foxgloves the blooms are supposed to look like they really could fit over the fingers of fairies, but for the iris the name would seem to allude only to the blooms' smallness compared to regular blue Siberian irises, & for the slenderness of each incurved come-hither petal, the fairies' invitation.

They also want regular watering, but never too damp. Preferring full afternoon sun, it'll make do in dappled shade with somewhat fewer but longer lasting flowers each year. Ours gets dappled afternoon sunlight & blooms just fine, though the tiny start we began with did not bloom until the third year, by which time it had spread into a considerable clump. It might've developed faster with more sun, though I'll likely never test that assumption to find out.

In our garden it blooms in May. Buds open one after another for most of the month, with a couple blooms lingering into early June, which in iris terms is a very long period of flowering.


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