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?