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Iris x pseudata ‘Lemony Snicket’

Iris x pseudata ‘Lemony Snicket’ bears soft, lemon-yellow flowers. Pseudata irises are the result of crossbreeding Iris pseudacorus (yellow flag) and Iris ensata (Japanese iris). Both parents like wet conditions, and Iris ‘Lemony Snicket’ is no different. Pseudata hybrid irises are normally sterile, thus many of the cultivars will not replicate yellow flag’s invasiveness in the landscape.

‘Lemony Snicket’ is a beautiful iris, easily besting yellow flag visually, with none of the environmental risks.

Iris ‘Lemony Snicket’ was introduced in 2016 by Jill Copeland. One of the truly beautiful and humbling things about seeing a hybrid like this is the human history and passion behind it. We walk past a plant, never knowing it was named for a daughter. Or in the case of ‘Lemony Snicket’, it can trace part of its existence to Japanese hybridizers paving the way over 50 years ago. The names Ueki and Osugi mean a lot in the world of irises, and by the way, so does Copeland.

What I especially like about ‘Lemony Snicket’ is it such a cohesively beautiful iris: The colors are just right, lemon contrasting with gold and brown. The proportion of the petals makes for a graceful flower that looks natural.

Many hybridized flowers are oversized pantheons to gauche. Irises are by no means the worst offenders. Making a flower larger and more vibrant doesn’t make it better, especially when the proportions are ruined. ‘Lemony Snicket’ is a fine example of restrained and nuanced breeding.

It is considered a late iris, and I would agree. It is very late May in Georgia and ‘Lemony Snicket’ is in full bloom.

It is worth noting ‘Lemony Snicket’ bears a strong resemblance to parent ‘Chance Beauty’. Copeland developed ‘Lemony Snicket’ into a more refined flower, I believe. But there is more at work here. Hybridizers such as Jill Copeland and Hiroshi Shimizu crossbreed with many goals, not just flower color.

Ryuichi Osugi and Hisaharu Ueki pioneered Iris pseudata hybrids over 50 years ago. We didn’t even have yellow flowers in Japanese irises until the 1960’s (Aichi-No-Kagayaki, 1962, pictured below).

Iris pseudata ‘Aichi No Kagayaki’

Growing Iris pseudata

Iris ‘Lemony Snicket’ will grow just fine in average garden soils. The irises photographed here are planted in ordinary garden soil on a hillside.

Irises are generally considered deer resistant, but deer will eat almost any actively growing plants until their preferred vegetative food sources green up in spring. What this means is that if the deer are hungry they will eat irises, often to the ground.

Pseudata irises bloom best with plenty of sun. They will be healthier and more robust in ideal conditions, which is ample water and sun. Soil should be rich. Once established, Iris pseudata can be remarkably drought tolerant but do not plant where persistently dry conditions are the norm.

It grows to 44″ or so, according to the breeder. ‘Lemony Snicket’ is officially described as bright lemon, but I find the color more restrained. Your experience may differ as I photographed this specimen on a cloudy, overcast day.

Iris ‘Lemony Snicket’ is the result of at least 20 years of efforts to breed Iris ensata and Iris pseudacorus. The hybridizer of ‘Lemony Snicket’, Jill Copeland, introduced ‘Pixie Won’ back in 1997.

Names of Irises Vary

Jill Copeland choosing to name an iris ‘Lemony Snicket’ intrigued me, so I dug a little deeper. Iris people are a bunch of characters, apparently. The names assigned to irises are creative no doubt. The Japanese breeders tend to favor names that are lyrically descriptive.

The Americans up the ante when it comes to naming irises. ‘So Van  Gogh’, ‘Tree of Songs’, ‘Lucy Locket’, ‘Alley Oops’, ‘Shaker’s Prayer’, and ‘Caesar’s Brother’ are just several examples. My favorite for its obscure reference to an Andy Griffith episode is  ‘Judy, Judy, Judy’. Btw, Cary Grant never uttered the phrase.

Genus/speciesIris pseudata ‘Lemony Snicket’
Common name(s)Lemony Snicket iris
Of notenot invasive – likes most soil but can handle average moisture conditions – do not let sit in standing water during winter – blooms in late spring
Fall colorinsignificant
Water requirementsmoist soil conditions
Soil qualityrich, well-drained
Suggested use(s)bog gardens, cottage gardens, mixed borders/perennial beds
Hardiness zone(s)4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b
Typefern, herbaceous perennial
Deciduous or evergreendeciduous
Flower colorgolden-yellow
Bloom periodmid to late spring
Exposurefull sun, afternoon shade

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