Growing up in a country town with mainly hot and dry weather, when the heat hit, many ornamental plants died, but the iris was sure to survive. An iris displays a frilly petal with surrounding long and wide dainty petals. To me, they look like the head of a pretty dragon.
There are many colors and patterns you can choose from, but my favorite is the Dutch iris with its vibrant blue-purple petals and the hint of emperor’s yellow highlighting the flower head. Although these flowers are named Dutch iris, they are not a native of the Netherlands.
In ancient times, there was a Greek Goddess named Iris, and she acted as a link between Heaven and Earth. In English, we she is known as the goddess of the rainbow and in Greek, she is called Iris. Irises come in all colors, just like the rainbow, and there are thousands to choose from, which is why these flowers are called irises.
The Greeks adored them and the French were so taken by the flower that a symbol representing the flower was put on the French flag of the Royalists during the French Revolution. The symbol is called “Fleur de Lys” and after the French Revolution, the symbol was removed. The King of Great Britain believed he ruled France, and so Edward III adopted the Fleur de Lys coat of arms in the 14th century.
With so many types of irises, some species differ, but most like to be in a climate with dry summers and cool to cold winters. Irises like a sunny position, at least half a day of sun will give you lots of lovely flowers appearing. They like to live in a neutral to alkaline soil with plenty of drainage.
Bearded irises favorably grow in many gardens. They usually come into flower after tulips and daffodils, and will stay flowering throughout the Summer. Irises are hardy and will still thrive in a neglected garden.
The iris has a bulb that is called a rhizome, but there are also iris varieties with other shapes, like the Dutch iris bulb, which is a teardrop shape. The Dutch iris comes in the colors purple-blue, yellow and white, and a rare rose color. Most iris varieties are planted in winter for a Spring and Summer display, but the Dutch iris is planted in Autumn for a Spring display only.
Irises can fill a gap in the garden bed, as well as be planted in a large display. They can be used in decorative pots, and Dutch iris have a good reputation for being used as a cut flower. Irises can be taken out of the ground at the end of flowering, but this depends on the variety and what conditions the irises are planted in.
Walking through the Melbourne Botanic Gardens, I came across this dainty white Iris that looked a little like angels fluttering across the garden. Up close, it was revealed to me as being Iris japonica. These Japanese irises need acidic soil and should not be saturated in water throughout winter. In the photograph, they are sheltered under trees.
They like the cold Winter and some moisture in the Summer. Irises repeat flowering more with regular watering and fertilizing through the growing season. Enjoy the many colors of the delightful varieties of the flowering iris plants, whichever your favorite is.