Friday, October 30, 2009

Irises - show time!

Late spring and early summer are one of the most exciting times in the garden. So many flowers choose this time to be at their best that we are spoiled for choice – Rhododendrons, roses, azaleas, and my favourites, the many glorious irises.
It is also the time of the year for flower shows, of course, and keen gardeners will be out picking and preparing their favourite blooms for display, and others will be popping along to the various horticultural society displays to see what is in fashion
I started out my adventure in the world of irises on my hands and knees, in my grandparents’ garden. My grandfather was a huge fan of the large flowered Tall Bearded irises, the ones that most people think of when you mention garden irises.
Despite my interest in some of the other types, I have to admit that these are the aristocrats of the iris world. They have multiple flowers on sturdy stems, with an incredible range of colours. If you have never seen modern garden iris, you ought to get along to these shows – I am sure you will be amazed at the modern bearded iris. The colour range is staggering – all colours except true red – and the form has also evolved, with tougher petals and lots of flounced and ruffles.
Of course Tall Bearded irises do have a potential flaw in our windy climate – they are tall and as such they can be prone to damage if we have a windy spring. There is a range of sizes in bearded irises, right down to ground hugging types, so it is possible to grow some that are nowhere near as susceptible to wind damage.
Almost all the bearded varieties need the same treatment – well drained, limey soil, and an open, exposed site. They will cope best if they are placed on top of the soil rather than being planted deeply. As long as those few simple rules are followed they are easily grown, and will give plenteously of their wonderful blooms.

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