SOme things about IRIS. Enjoy
Irises are named after the Greek goddess of the rainbow and grow wild throughout the northern hemisphere, from high Himalayan bogs to arid Greek hillsides and the banks of British canals.
Irises are incredibly useful upright perennials that can be grown in many different areas. Chose well and you"ll have irises in flower
for six months, from November to June. You"ll also get a wide colour range from rich blues to flashy yellows and extraordinary combinations such as butterscotch yellow and violet. Many also have beautiful, intricate patterns.
Botanists divide irises into two key groups: the rhizomatous, which have rhizomes on or just beneath the soil, and those that grow from bulbs. The first group divides into two further sections, the beardless and bearded (with a distinctive little beard in the flower
centre), all of which can get very confusing. The best way to decide which ones you want to grow is to visit specialist nurseries and check their colours and growing
Irises include some of the easiest and most attractive marginal pond plants
, the majority of which can also be grown in damp borders that don"t dry out. They come in all shades and mixes of blue, purple and white, including double-flowered varieties. Some of the most dramatic are the modern Japanese hybrids that have extremely complicated markings. They tend to be vigorous and are easy to propagate by division in early spring
(instead of the more usual August).
Winter and spring
Although irises are principally associated with full sun, there are some species that not only tolerate but actually thrive in cooler conditions. They are free flowering in winter, providing a perpetual succession of blooms.
I. foetidissima: called the roast beef iris after the smell of its crushed leaves, it"s one of the most adaptable plants
regarding soil or position, and is often found growing
in hedgerows in the south of England. It has slender leaves and produces insignificant brownish flowers
in April. In late autumn the plump seed
pods open to reveal brilliantly glowing, sealing-wax red seeds
that remain on the plant
into the New Year. ‘Variegata" has striking white markings but is prone to rust if not divided regularly. Both have been awarded the AGM.
I. japonica: a slightly tender iris that likes an area in front of a sunny, sheltered wall. It produces a broad fan of leaves and, in late spring
, exotic pale blue or white frilly flowers
, dramatically splashed with purple, with an orange crest. ‘Ledger" is reputedly the hardiest form. ‘Variegata" has attractively striped green and white leaves. I. japonica and ‘Variegata" have been awarded the AGM.
I. unguicularis: whenever the temperature rises above freezing for a few days, this will produce late winter and early spring flowers
, adding up to many hundreds over the season on established clumps. The excellent ‘Mary Barnard" is the most free-flowering form. It has slightly narrower leaves than the ordinary type and starts producing its rich purple flowers
early in November. In cool springs, it may continue into April, although it usually stops in March. ‘Walter Butt" has scented, almost grey flowers
, and might even start flowering in late autumn.
Irises generally prefer well-drained soil, the exception being the water-edge varieties. Add grit and humus to open up heavy clay soils. Pacific coast irises require neutral to acid soil and, unlike most irises, flower
equally well in partial shade and full sun. I. cristata prefers humus-rich soil in partial shade and is best divided just after flowering. I. unguicularis likes the poor soils and dry conditions of the southern Mediterranean and North Africa, and flowers
best when tucked up against a south-facing wall.
All irises, except the bulbous varieties, should be planted with the broad, fleshy rhizomes at or just below the soil surface. The rhizomes need direct sunlight and mustn"t be shaded by surrounding plants
the bulbous irises 10-20cm (4-8in) deep in autumn, and lift and divide as the leaves fade. Juno irises should be planted 5cm (2in) deep.
Feeding and dividing
Feed with a low-nitrogen, slow-release fertiliser and add extra lime for very acid soils. Late summer is the best time to move or divide most forms, but divide I. cristata just after its spring
When dividing the rhizome, keep the young, vigorous parts and discard the old. Water the newly planted sections in dry weather in their first season after transplanting, to help them establish new root systems.growing
Most iris species can be grown from seed
, although some may take many years to flower
. Hybrid irises will not grow true from seed
and need to be propagated by division.
Take care when handling irises as the sap can cause skin irritation. All parts of the plant
can be poisonous if eaten.