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Iris - Growing Guide
We do not stock tall growing Bearded irises in our catalogue. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of named varieties grown by a relatively few highly specialised nurseries of which Kelways nursery at Langport in Somerset is perhaps the best known. They have exhibited bearded iris at Chelsea for 100 years.
Instead we stock other perennial rhizomatous species (but not bulbous ones) which can be categorised as ‘Beardless irises’. These have rhizomes which are generally below ground level rather than being surface rhizomes as bearded irises are. Most of the varieties which are offered are suitable for the herbaceous border and one is more suited to growing beside water in boggy conditions. The different species flower at different times of the year and are perfectly hardy.
Irises like hot summers and do best in full sun. The rhizomes are best divided soon after flowering, or in late autumn, when numerous offsets can be separated out. Beardless irises benefit from a spring mulching which gives the rhizomes a good feed.
I. chrysographes is a species from China on which each flower stem produces a pair of fragrant dark violet flowers with gold streaks in early summer. It grows 15-20in in height.
I. ensata, Japanese water iris, grows to around 3ft with pink-purple flowers in mid-summer. It is best by (but not actually in) water.
I. foetidissima, Stinking iris, takes its common name from the unpleasant smell experienced if you crush its leaves. It grows up to 3ft and has, in early summer, up to five dark purple flowers tinged with yellow. The large and attractive seed capsules split open in autumn to display large numbers of scarlet seeds.
I. japonica ‘Variegata’ produces flower heads in late spring with three or four frilly white or lavender-blue flowers. This variety grows to about 18in and is often valued for its foliage effect in the border as much as for the flower itself.
I. pallida ‘Variegata’ has splendid variegated gold and cream leaves and soft blue flowers on tall stems in early summer. Each stem may have two to six scented flowers. Grows, when mature, to around 4ft.
I. siberica is offered in a range of different coloured cultivars. They all flower in early summer with each branched stem having up to five flowers. The leaves are narrow and grass like. Overall these plants grow to around 2-3ft in the border.
I. unguicularis (syn. stylosa) flowers in late winter or early spring and is a very popular plant for exactly this reason. The flowers are large, fragrant and clear lavender to deep violet blue with contrasting veins and a band of yellow. The overall height is only 12in or so and the leaves are also grass like.