I am quickly coming to realise that the Iris family is such an amazing family of plants. Flowers can be enjoyed from one member or another for well over seven months of the year and even this is getting longer with new Iris re blooming. The iris comes in so many different colours from white, right the way through to black. They also have such varied requirements as to the soil and situation where they choose to live, from sand right through to enjoying sitting in a pond, some of them also like the sun, some the shade, some half way between. I am now gradually finding an iris to suit all my different beds and borders here.
Starting way back at the beginning of December last year, the first Iris to open it’s flowers was Iris unguicularis by the front drive, this one is Walter Butt and it likes lots of sun with good drainage, so I have added lots of grit to it’s planting hole.
It is so wonderful to find such a delicate looking flower in the depth of winter, they certainly brighten up a dull miserable day.
Just below the dining room window where it gets lots of sunshine, is another Iris unguicularis, the straight species this time, which started flowering at the end of December.
Looking a bit frosty is Iris reticulata Pauline, which started flowering in late January, such a lovely dark burgundy flower colour. All the reticulata iris have been planted on the alpine scree as they like good drainage.
In early February Iris reticulata George joined in with Pauline, this is such a beautiful deep blue, again planted on the scree. I can see these from the dining room window, so I can stay nice and warm while enjoying them!
March saw the start of Iris japonica flowering. The flowers of this iris are so small, I was rather disappointed when mine first started flowering, all books and magazines show it looking large like this photo, but in reality they are just about 2 inches across. However, I have since found that they have so many flowers all along the long stem, at least 10 or 12, so the overall effect is rather pretty. The problem with mine is that the foliage always looks such a mess, thanks to the slugs and snails, maybe that’s why we all photograph it in close up all the time!
We then had to wait until late April when my lovely little nameless dwarf bearded iris opened out fully. The perfume for this one was wonderful, again planted on the scree for drainage and also so that I don’t have to bend too far to sniff it!
To the opposite planting extreme, in May, this lovely little Californian Iris is at the front of the bog garden and spent most of the winter sitting in water! I don’t think they are supposed to like it so wet all the time, but this year it has flowered better than ever. I hope this doesn’t mean it is going to die, I’d better save some seed just in case!
Also opening in May are the tall bearded Iris. I have quite a few different coloured ones, peach, yellow, white, brown and purple, but this is the only one that has flowered this year. Looking at the others, they have been overshadowed by their neighbours in the Bee and Butterfly border and the rhizomes are now in shade. I will have to dig them up and split them, replanting somewhere where they will have plenty of sun down below. I have just been reading in one of my books all about Iris’ , that the Intermediate Bearded Iris aren’t so fussy about the rhizome being in the sun, they say that this iris is less flamboyant than the tall bearded and more reliable where they don’t get much sun, sounds perfect, maybe I could try some of those.
English Iris, Iris latifolia, suddenly burst forth at the end of May. They aren’t an English native at all, they come from damp meadows in the Pyrenees and northern Spain.This iris has made a large clump, I think maybe they will have to be split soon. I have found that there is also a white one, so will be hunting for it. English iris can take a heavier soil than most of the others.
Dutch Iris are supposed to flower before the English Iris, but here the English won the race at the end of May. This Dutch one is I. Silvery Beauty.
Another Dutch Iris, this time Gypsy Beauty. The end of May is certainly the month for Iris here, they all seem to be starting to flower.
Here, there are 3 Gypsy Beauty with one Sapphire Beauty on the left. I must buy more, they seem to like the soil here and have lasted for a good number of years now.
Still in May, Iris pseudocorus started opening their flowers, these like a really damp spot so I have plenty of places where they are really happy. This is a British native so that is why it is so happy in my heavy, wet soil. After cutting down the spent flowers and seed pods and putting them in the compost bin, these flowers pop up wherever the compost has been used.
Still enjoying a paddle in the bog garden is the variegated form of Iris pseudocorus. The leaves turn plain green once the flowers are over, but ever since the foliage spikes pierce the soil in early spring, they form an important presence where foliage is concerned.
Getting wetter still, actually growing in the pond are Iris laevigata, which are flowering now and started last month, hopefully they will flower for a while longer.
And the same goes for Iris laevigata variegata next to it in the pond. The leaves are beautiful so even when not flowering, this iris looks very attractive. I think it has burst out of it’s planting basket, maybe some work is needed here.
Iris Sibirica are just starting to open in June, this iris copes very well in ordinary soil which has plenty of humus added. This comes in lots of colours, I have white, purple and pink, but they’re taking their time and not flowering yet!
The beautiful white and yellow flower of Iris sibirica Butter and Sugar. This is at the left hand side of the bog garden, not in the very wet soil of the bog but to the left where it is slightly drier.
Looking very pale in this photo, but this is the clump of Butter and Sugar, which has spread and made a sizeable clump in just a few years. The colour of the iris picks up the colour of the variegation of the hosta next to it. There is one more Iris sibirica that I would like, Iris chrysographes, a black iris with just a thin line of gold on the falls – very sophisticated!
Iris ensata is another iris that likes damp soil, even wet, so the bog garden was the natural place to put it. This one flowers in July here so this is a photo from last year.
The same again for this lovely white Iris ensata in the bog, new for me last year and photographed last July, buds are starting to form on these last two, so it shouldn’t be too long before I can enjoy these lovely flowers again.
Another British native which flowers in July, so this photo is from last year, is Iris foetidissimae. Compared to other Iris, the flowers are thin, not very brightly coloured and don’t shout for attention, this is an iris that likes to live in the shade, a woodland plant. It jumps out at you in the autumn and winter when the seed pods open and the seeds on view are such a bright orange to tempt the birds, who then distribute it round my garden!
Having said that the iris family come in all the colours of the rainbow, I’ve noticed that mine are mainly blue/purple with just a couple of yellow and a bit of white. I’ll have to do something about that as there are so many more different colours for me to enjoy. We are so very lucky to have so many different areas for planting and are therefore able to grow so many different varieties of Iris. Which Iris do you enjoy in your garden?
Thanks for a fantastic post Pauline. I have learned so much about a plant I know very little about, and it has inspired me to plant more !!
I especially love the early irises, the fact that something so lovely and so exotic can bloom in the depths of winter before almost everything else. I have never come across Iris Unguicularis , and thought that the earliest was Reticulata. I have made a note in my garden Notebook to get hold of some bulbs. Do you plant them in Autumn, or before ?
I think Jane, that I would plant Iris unguicularis as soon as you can find it so that it has time to make a good root system before winter. Once I started adding up how many different sorts of iris I had planted here, I was amazed at how diverse the family is, something for every situation, such a fantastic family!
This has been a lovely post for me to read, Pauline. Up until recently, I’ve enjoyed seeing the tall blue bearded iris in the Capel gardens but I came home from Chelsea with an Iris ‘Edith Wolford’ under my arm – I couldn’t resist the beautiful combination of the yellow flowers and blue falls connected with burgundy streaks. I can feel a whole new gardening passion coming on! The flowers have, of course, finished but I’ve planted it in a sunny, well drained south west facing border and am excited to see it flowering next year, with luck! Your post has got me thinking about buying more Iris to extend the season!
I’m so glad it was of use to you Caro, they really are a wonderful family of plants. I’ve seen photos of Edith Wolford, she is so beautiful! I think it is wonderful when you find a plant that is happy in the soil you have, then you just have to find all their cousins! I’ve been browsing Claire Austin’s website this morning, all her Iris are soooo tempting!
It is a fantastic group of plants and I will undoubtedly be collecting more. Slugs and snails are a real problem though, they have completely demolished the ‘Death by Chocolate’ dwarf bearded that I bought in early May. My own fault as I didn’t realise how attractive to molluscs they are. Iris unguicularis is a must for me too, they look so exotic in December!
They are wonderful plants aren’t they Jessica, they might only flower for a short time, but there are lots to follow on. So sorry to hear about the demise of Death by Chocolate, I have only had slug/snail problems on my reticulata iris and the iris japonica, so far thank goodness, they leave the rest alone. I. unguicularis is amazing flowering in the depth of winter, it comes as such a surprise when you first see it, apparently it is perfumed too, but I haven’t got down that far yet!
What a collection you have Pauline! All of them beautiful. I have several species I grew from seeds two years ago (including some ensata). I very much look forward to having them bloom.
Thanks Alain, they are a wonderful family aren’t they! It’s wonderful that you have grown some from seed, I’m sure you are wondering what colour they will all be. I must try some, especially the Pacific Coast Iris, in case they drown!
I’ve only just begun broadening my planting with irises; I’ve always had dutch and reticulate just never the summer-bloomers. I have, I think 3 but since I’ve had to dig out a few of the clumps in preparation for fixing our tier, I have no blooms this year – most are now with my parents, but some are left here and no sign of buds yet – I’m no fan of the large, blousy bearded Iris so have stuck to Siberica and one of the flatter, large types (forget its name now), however I think I’ll also get some of the natives after seeing your photos and definitely the December/January bloomers.
I agree Liz, that some of the new large bearded Iris have gone too far with all their frills, almost as if they are doing the Can-Can! Is your flatter one maybe an Ensata type? I can imagine your parents garden is filling up with your plants in pots, any sign of a move yet?! I daren’t think of what I would have to take with me if I was moving! I can certainly recommend Iris unguicularis, it’s wonderful to see such a delicate flower at that time of year.
Goodness, I truly had no idea just how many species and the different situations they grow in. A big thank you for this. I planted some I. variegata in spring, it’s coming along nicely, hopefully I chose a good spot for it.
There truly is an iris for almost every spot and having just checked my local nursery’s website – I see they have a wide selection. I might have to give something else a wee try. You’ve whetted my appetite Pauline 🙂
Fantastic Angie, I’m glad I have sown a seed! They really are an amazing family, every garden should have at least one, because no matter what your soil is like, or how much shade you have, there is an iris to fit. I will look forward to hearing what tempts you at your local nursery!
What a great collection of irises you have Pauline, and you are so lucky to have varying types of ground for all these different sorts too. I love them all!
We certainly were lucky Cathy, when we bought the house, I had no idea way back then, of all the different soil types that we were buying! The iris have so many different requirements that there is one or two for everybody.
Perfect,you have an Iris for every microclimate of your garden, you should hold the National Collection of Irises! All of the irises that like free draining dry conditions are happy in my garden; I have many that you have too, but I am unable to grow the moisture loving ones. I do think they are an amazing family of plants having adapted themselves to every garden situation.
There is far too much paperwork to do Christina, when you hold a National Collection! I’ve seen your lovely tall bearded iris, they are really beautiful in all the colours you have. They certainly are an amazing family, adapting themselves as they travelled the northern hemisphere.
Thanks Susie, whatever the soil requirements that are needed for each variety, I think I can provide it!
Hi Pauline, You have an amazing collection of irises. I haven’t managed to find a spot for irises yet, but they are fabulous fascinating flowers that I discovered lots of people are quite addicted to. I wrote a post about this back in 2010. Here’s the link: http://slowgardener.blogspot.com.au/2010/02/irisarians-all-over-world.html
S0 take care – you have been warned! (semi-lol)
Oh dear Catmmint, I think your warning has come too late, I am well and truly hooked! I find the tall bearded ones quite difficult to place in the border, so they get enough sunlight to their roots, I can see some will have to be split and moved.
You have such a fine collection of Iris, Pauline! Wow! I just find them hard to accomodate in a border so mine are lining the drive. I also dream about creating two borders with Iris sibirica ever since I saw them in drifts in the garden of Bryansground. Next project perhaps 😉
Annette, I think the tall bearded need to be separate from other plants, so they get enough sunshine. I like the sound of your 2 borders with sibiricas, that would certainly have the WOW factor!
What a terrific collection of iris! I have always admired the Iris ensete and wish I had a wet spot for it. The same is true of the variegated Iris laevigata. I also admire your stand of Iris latifolia. I have some tall bearded Iris, and I don’t like them at all. They need more sun and need to be moved. Finding a sunny spot is a problem, but I probably could find a spot if they were as gorgeous as yours!
Thanks Deb, I think I just had a few to start with and then by adding one or two different ones each year, they soon mount up! I’m going to have to find a bed for the tall bearded ones, so that they can be by themselves, I think under the dining room window will be just fine for them.
A great Iris post, Pauline. I love Irises too. It is difficult to pick favourites when they all come in such gorgeous colours.
I love Iris sibirica, it makes such lovely clumps but it doesn’ t flower for long. At the moment I am drooling over an Iris chrysographes. ‘ Black’.which I bought at Hampton Court last year.
Lucky you Chloris, already having Iris chrysographes, I hope to find one soon! I can’t have a favourite among them, if I had, I think my favourite is whichever is flowering at the moment, they are all so gorgeous with beautiful markings.
A beautiful collection of lovely irises! Blessings, Natalie 🙂
Thanks Natalie, irises are such a wonderful family, don’t you think!
I enjoyed reading your calendar of irises Pauline and will return to reread this post which is most informative. I noticed that my Pacific Coast iris which looks very similar to what you call Californian iris flowered more profusely than ever this year. Must have been the wet winter. I had never thought that that it might signal the death knoll though. Luckily I have a few spares potted up for the garden club plant sale, which I didn’t take with me in the end as they had already flowered. I only wish that the flowers were longer lasting.
Thanks Anna, I’m glad you found it useful. Pacific Coast iris are the same as Californian iris, I should have used the Latin! I know some plants flower profusely when they are going to die, trying to set seed before their demise, with the iris having been under water all winter, I thought maybe it’s days are numbered. My Iris book tells me that they like lots of water in the growing season but don’t like to stand in water in the winter! I will save their seed, who knows what colours will turn up!