|Sunset edged irises at Chateau du Rivau|
It was bearded iris time on our recent trip to France; also at last week's Chelsea Flower Show; and judging by my peeps into social media, it's currently iris time for many of you too.
I must admit I'm late to warm to these flowers. The earlier blooming Iris reticulata, then elegant Iris sibirica are usually my species of choice, but seeing so many fine bearded irises whilst away along with the steady drip feed of your photos finally got me thinking differently.
Then yesterday whilst sorting through my things, I found a leaflet from Cayeux nursery (which I picked up at Chelsea last week), which has answered all my doubts...
|I loved Cayeux's colour sectioned display at this year's Chelsea Flower Show. Guess which one is my favourite?|
Doubt #1: They don't bloom for very long
Cayeux says: "If you select a mixture of small, intermediate and tall varieties you can have irises in flower from mid April until early June... And even after the flowering season the stiff fan of leaves is attractive for much of the year."
Update: my friend Helen commented there are some varieties which re-bloom. That's definitely something to look out for. Here's Claire Austin's list of remontant irises (the technical term used for those irises which re-bloom) plus her notes on how reliably those varieties exhibit that tendency in the midlands.
Catherine Horwood also reminded me about the smaller Cedric Morris varieties via Facebook. I saw these exhibited at Chelsea a couple of years ago, and very fine they were too.
Doubt #2: They don't thrive on my limey soil
Cayeux says: "In fact bearded irises are fairly unfussy about the soil they grow in. Really good drainage* is more crucial than acidity."
Doubt #3: They struggled to flower when I tried them
Cayeux says: "You may have planted them in shade: irises need full sun for at least two thirds of the day, preferably on the rhizomes which should be visible above the soil. Or they may have needed dividing: after 3 or 4 years one rhizome can form a good clump."
* = I'm concerned about that too because of my clay soil, but I've also come to realise I have some sunny gravel areas in the garden which should provide better drainage than usual.
Conclusion? Perhaps I should try them one more time bearing the above points in mind.
|A case of mistaken identity at Chaumont, oops!|
So which iris am I planning to buy? Not the one pictured above, fine though it is. I thought it was the Jardins de Chaumont variety pointed out to me at the time at Chaumont, but a quick check of Cayeux's website shows that one is much paler.
I think Jardins de Chaumont will be a good 'starter for 10' - a fine iris selected by Chaumont's director and a great souvenir of happy times. I must also ask Patricia Laigneau about the pictured varieties I've chosen to show from Le Rivau; such a magical time.
|Massed white irises at dawn at Le Rivau|
Where to see bearded irises in profusion
These are places for inspiration, whether you're a fan already, or need more persuasion like me.
If you're considering a trip to France - the Loire valley in particular - then their new Route des Iris trail is worth considering for May next year (or this year if you're quick!). It takes in 2 nurseries and 5 gardens, including Cayeux and Chaumont.
Claire Austin usually has open days at her Shropshire nursery timed to coincide with the flowering of her national collection of bearded irises. This year is no exception - you'll need to be there this coming Friday or Saturday (2nd & 3rd June 2017), 10-4pm. Tea, coffee and cake are also available to lure you there.
You may remember I visited an amazing collection of irises at the Laking Garden in Canada a couple of years ago.
The British Iris Society has a list (with links) of gardens and nurseries (UK and worldwide) noted for their irises.
|I have a similar site at home to this one at Le Rivau. Will their irises follow me here? Watch this space...|