Six on Saturday – Irises


As ever I’m late to the party but yesterday was such a nice day I decided to delay sitting at the laptop until this morning and I’m pleased I did as the sky is grey and the garden is being buffeted by a sporadic wind.

I like to try to theme my Six on Saturday posts (when I remember to do them) and this week it had to be Irises.  I have a real weakness for Irises of all sorts and am a member of the Iris Society.  I suspect I should call myself a disgraced member of the Iris Society as I am incapable of remembering plant names and plant labels never stay in place very long. However, I would argue in my defence that an inability to remember a plant name or where you got the plant from in the first place doesn’t mean you can’t be passionate about a genus and love them very much.

So here are my six for this weekend, all flowering yesterday in the garden.  I’m starting with Siberian Irises.  The top photo is of a plant given to me by a work colleague who had herself had it for many years, the name long lost.  It is so delicate and smaller in flower than the variety below.  Also unnamed and again I have had this plant for probably 15 years or more.  It doesn’t seem to flower as prolifically as it used to and I’m wondering if it needs dividing, or more moisture.

Pacific Coast Iris

Now I do know that this is a Pacific Coast Iris and I grew it from seed from the Iris Society about 4 years ago.  Last year it flowered for the first time and I seem to remember it had just 2 flowers, this year it has doubled up to 4 flowers. I get the impression that Pacific Coast Irises don’t have named varieties, maybe they cross pollinate too much to be reliable.  What I find fascinating about Pacific Coast Irises is that they seem to thrive in the most inhospitable conditions.  I have seen them growing in garden alongside dense conifers and in my own garden this plant is thriving next to a large and hungry Rosemary bush.  I do wonder why they aren’t recommended more often for those difficult locations, possibly because it seems the only way to acquire them is via seed from the Iris Society or a plant from a friend.

Iris Langport Wren

I love this Bearded Iris.  I love the deepness of the almost black petals, they are so sumptuous.  I have bought many Bearded irises over the years but only seem to have three varieties growing in my garden now.  I’m assuming that these are the doers, the ones that stand up to anything thrown at them – persistent rain, dislocation by a poor gardener, all sorts.  ‘Langport Wren’ is spread all around the garden, a clump here and a clump there.  This plant is on the edge of the new vegetable bed, guarding the lettuces.

Also on the edge of the vegetable bed are some Dutch Iris, or Florists Irises (above and below).  I buy bulbs of these most years, apart from last Autumn, and about 50% appear in the Spring and if I am lucky some of them reappear in later years.  I just love them.  The petals are like silk and they appear on long stems (obviously why florists like them) above the surrounding plants looking impossibly glamorous.  They are usually named but the names never stick in my head and I don’t think they matter to be honest.


I hope you enjoyed my Six on Saturday (well Sunday) and thank you to The Propagator for hosting this meme every Saturday, its not always easy to keep up with hosting a meme as I well know so well done.

Beardless Iris Study Day

On Saturday  I had the pleasure of attending The Beardless Iris Society study day in the depths of Herefordshire.  I haven’t been to a plant study day for a few years now as I think I was just overwhelmed with plant information but the break has reinvigorated me and the programme appealed to my inner plant geek,

It was only fairly recently that I discovered that there was a Beardless Iris Society, a sub group of the British Iris Society.  In broad sweeping terms, which would probably be frown upon by stalwarts of the society, beardless irises are generally the Siberian irises and Japanese (Ensata) irises along with a few others which don’t have beards. Whilst some in attendance fained a dislike of Bearded Irises I think most, like me, just loved iris in whatever form they took.

The study day started with 3 talks.  A quick round up of Siberian Irises from Alun and Gill Whitehead, our hosts; a talk about European Beardless Iris by Tim Loe; and a talk about the Iridaceae family by Dr Julian Sutton of Desirable Plants.  Julian’s talks are always so informative and engaging and I learnt loads from all the talks; although there seemed to be a difference of opinion about the importance of the number of chromosomes in the hybridising of Iris sibrica  with Iris sanguinea and the significance of I. typhifolia. Most of it passed me by but I do find the discussion about these things fascinating even if I only understand a bit of it.

After a lovely lunch provided by our hosts we went for a visit to their garden, Aulden Farm, which hosts a national collection of Siberian Irises. As ever in the depths of Herefordshire the journey to the garden involved single track roads, encounters with tractors and lots of reversing – all good fun especially when you are in a convoy of 5 cars.

I haven’t been to Aulden Farm for years although I regularly chat with Gill at various plant events.  I seem to remember some years back when there was a drought and everything looked a little dry.  Not so this year, all very lush and bountiful.  Aulden Farm is the type of garden that really appeals to me.  It is a very natural garden without being a wilderness.  The grass fades into the full borders which overflow with all manner of interesting plants.  This isn’t a garden which relies on design and structure nor for that matter is it a garden which relies on unusual plants; it is a garden which seems to capture both extremes in a space which envelopes you in plants and wildlife with paths that encourage you to explore further.

The Whiteheads are plantsmen (or should I say plants people).  They are consummate growers and sell all manner of plants at various groups and events.  They also have an informal nursery at their garden for open gardens days under the NGS and other visitors.  Needless to say being a group of plant fanatics the nursery was the first stop for many.  As ever in these circumstances I take advantage of the distraction to get into the garden and take some photos before it fills with people.

One of the key feature of the main garden is a dry river bed which meanders across the site being more full of water one end than the other – I didn’t really get a handle on the logistics of it.  But the moisture creates the perfect environment for Siberian Irises -as you can see from the photos on this blog post.  They look so good in large clumps and they were so full of flowers unlike mine which have been very mean with their flowers this year.

For some reason I hadn’t really registered that there was a national collection to see in the garden, although I have been told this before but my brain is full of work stuff and was obviously have a sabbatical on Saturday.  Anyway, I was rather surprised to come across a gate leading to a large field like area of garden full of raised beds full of irises. As with any good national collection the beds have a clear planting plan displayed for visitors so you can mostly work out the name of the variety you are admiring. I liked most of them, my tastes are so catholic, but I was interested in the varieties with larger petals (or perianths as I think we were told to call them by Dr Sutton – must check my notes).  I am used to the more simple, natural siberian irises but the hybrids have three larger chunkier perianths which really appealed to me; but then I do love Ensata iris and these have a similar type of flower head.

Having admired the garden I found the nursery empty of visitors so time for me to browse the remains left and do a little plant buying.  On returning home and sorting out my acquisitions from the garden and plant sale in the morning I seem to have acquired 5 new irises which is rather troubling as I have no idea where I am going to shoehorn them into.

I had a lovely day, learnt lots, met interesting people, had good food, visited a lovely garden and bought plants – what more can you ask for.

Garden Visiting: The Nest


Today I went for a mooch into Herefordshire, my favourite county, to visit The Nest which is opening this Bank Holiday weekend for the NGS.    What a wonderful country garden full of all those plants I love, exuberant, floriferous and fascinating.



The property is adjacent to the old Stourport to Leominster Canal which we learned had never been completed and had been out of use for many decades. The owners divert some of the water through the garden to form a wonderful gully where ferns and other moisture loving plants grow.


Aside from the ferns the real draw at this time of year is a large square bed divided into quarters by a brick path with a water bath in the middle.  The planting is dense herbaceous and was positively buzzing with bees and even an untrained eye such as mine could spot at least three different varieties of bee.




As with many gardens around here at the moment there was a variety of irises including siberian (above) and some lovely bearded irises which the owner had for so long that the name was but a distant memory.

Rosa Stanwell Perpetual

The Rosa Stanwell Perpetual made its presence first with scent before you even noticed it but when you did see it the flowers were quite overwhelming.  Apparently this rose just gives and gives so is now on my wish list though goodness knows where I have space for it.


I decided to go on the wildflower walk around the owners wildflower meadow.  I bit of a departure for me as my knowledge about wildflowers has faded since I was quite good in my teens.  I have been becoming more and more interested in finding out more about our native plants but have been a little intimidated by the very knowledgeable people.  Anyway, I needn’t have worried we went for a walk through the meadow up mown paths.  The owner explained how the meadow had not been cultivated for some 200 years and how they had worked so hard to reduce the fertility of the soil to allow the flowers to predominate and the yearly routine that they applied to maintain this amazing spectacle.The highlight of my visit was seeing my first wild orchid – the Heath Spotted Orchid. 


A beautiful garden indeed even on a grey and damp day with the darkening clouds threatening overhead.


A month of Irises

May is a month of Irises in my garden.  The show starts with this gorgeous blue bearded iris.  I’m not sure where I acquired it from or what it is.  I think it might be one I rescued from work when they were clearing the borders by my office.

This is then followed by Langport Wren – which is a gorgeous sumptious burgandy.  Its just so rich. It has done amazingly well in the garden considering how damp the soil can be in the winter, due to the clay.

This lovely peachy coloured bearded iris follows Langport Wren – again I dont know what type it is but I  love the subtlty of it.  This has now got to the stage where it needs dividing so when it has finished flowering, I plant to divide it up and put some in the front garden.  The soil is similar in the front garden but not so wet and is more sun baked so I hope the Irises will do well.  Their leaves should provide some much needed structure during the winter.

As well as bearded Irises I have a  yellow flag iris in the pond.  It hasnt flowered before and I have had it probably 3 years. So I was really pleased to see this in flower today.

I also have some Siberian Irises which I really like.  There is a pale blue and yellow one but I can get a photo of it at the moment unless I get into the pond to reach it!  I have have a dark blue one that I acquired some years ago and which has been split a number of times.  It seems very happy by the pond and its leaves add a nice contrast to the broader leaves of the Ligularia, Hostas and Anemones.

Whilst I love the decandence of the bearded irises with their blousey flowers I think I prefer the Siberian Irises understated elegance.  They are so much easier.  They dont need their rizomes bakes in the sun so can muddle along with other plants crowding them and they dont dominate the planting scheme.  I liken the bearded irises to one of those awful overdressed women who you dread coming to a party as they will expect to be treated like a queen and will demand alot of attention,  whilst the Siberians are more like those women who seem to have to make no effort to look amazing and are so easy to get on with.  Oh dear I think I have been abit harsh on the old bearded irises – never mind, I love them really