I love irises. I’ve loved irises for years, ever since I had to draw one for A level art. ‘Really look at your flowers, girrrls,’ said the art teacher, sounding disconcertingly like Maggie Smith as Miss Jean Brodie, and I did. Wonderful things.
A couple of years ago P and I created a new iris bed, and I was able to prove to him that you can move irises and have them flourish the next year as long as the rhizomes are moved quickly and there’s no messing about. They love their new bed and flower their socks off.
I was waiting for the big white fleur de lys to flower, and it almost got there:
And then we had hail. Big hail. Oh – and horrendous gales. And it was cold.
So you can imagine what that flower looks like now. (Sigh – but that’s gardening; you’ve got to develop a certain level of fatalism, plus there are lots more flower heads, and the weather should improve. Shouldn’t it?)
Of course, the rest of the irises weren’t immune from damage, so it’s just as well I’d been taking shots earlier in the week:
I should say now that I have no idea what variety these are, so if anyone can help, please let me know (not even sure of the category: they’re either a short Tall Bearded or a tall Intermediate). When I moved into my last flat, the garden had been part of a building site. It was wild, about 6ft high in nightmarish overgrowth, except for one patch where the builders had kindly built a huge bonfire. I was working on the house, so I left the garden till the very early spring, and then we slashed and burned what had not died back. This process revealed the presence of a small patch of irises right at the very back, so I dug them up, split the rhizomes, moved them to a sunnier spot, and they took off.
When I moved here in 2002 I brought a couple of the irises with me in pots, and they stayed in their pots while I worked on this house. I put them in the garden a couple of years later (sorry, irises), and they liked it, but I chose the wrong place – too windy and not quite sunny enough. Now they are in the best possible place, though perhaps I should build them a shelter!
They bring a painterly touch to the bottom garden, even on the gloomiest day:
I have others, of course, and I’m always on the lookout for more, though quite where they would go, I’m not sure. Some bearded irises can be a bit thuggish, and one of the reasons I particularly like these is that they are not. And the markings on their velvety deep-purple falls are glorious.
Not bad for a freebie.
I must admit that I actually bought the big white, at a friend’s NGS open day. I’ve got some Langport Wren which I also bought, this time at a plant fair at the Tradescant Trust where the Iris Society were selling some unlabelled plants from a deceased member’s garden – but they’re over now and, to be quite honest, I’m not sure how much I like them.
But when I left my last garden I did make a huge gardening mistake. I got the wrong iris patch and inadvertently brought two of the same kind. I had meant to bring some from a clump of beautiful brown irises – sounds bizarre, but they were gorgeous. Again, I’ve no idea what they were, and they were more freebies. I didn’t inherit them, though. They’d been thrown in a skip at the Chelsea Flower Show. I took them out when we were packing up (I used to be involved with a specialist bookshop, and one of the major perks of the dreadful hours, vast crowds, sheer hard work and often-inappropriate weather at the Flower Show – we would start some days with a hot toddy at 7 in the morning, just to warm us up – was being there at the end for the crash down). I’m still looking for them in catalogues, but I’ve never quite seen them again… One day, one day…