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The Rainbow Goddess

The Rainbow Goddess

The fabulous early blooming dwarf Iris one of those plants that look great in most garden schemes.  Blooming early, some even as early as January, I would find it hard to believe that anyone can anyone resist buying these flowers in the garden centre. They are delightfully purple and feathery at a time of the year when there is very little colour to be had. In the garden I love seeing these flowers planted en masse in large swathes of colour and the hue of this variety is easy to team with virtually everything that is out at the moment. Perfect when mixed up with the purples, whites and yellows of the tiny goblets of the Crocus flower and lovely with a few pink, ruffled primroses scattered throughout.

Boasting over 200 colour varieties, it is no wonder that the Iris takes its name comes from the Greek name for ‘Rainbow’. The yellows of the flag Iris are instantly recognizable in our marshlands and the blues of the tall and elegant Sibirica as well as the incredible showy bearded Iris varieties shows us that there is a colour and variety for every garden and at all times of the year.

The Iris reticulata ‘Edward’ is one dwarf variety that is both subtle and pretty, en elegantly shaped sword like flower that is so rewarding in an early scheme. I love how the deep purple of the flowers are off-set by the striking orange and white accents at the edge of the trifold petals. You can just imagine being a bee and seeing that delightfully bright landing strip to guide you to the nectar!

Native to Turkey and the Caucasian mountains these pretty flowers grow only to about 10-15cm and have lovely sword like leaves that rise higher even than the petals. They are a wonderful plant for a container and which makes them a welcome addition to balconies and smaller gardens. I have planted them into a gorgeous green speckled planter and placed some moss around the bare earth around them, making them feel almost a part of the planter, as though they have always grown there.




The Iris has a rich mythological history and like many flowers finds inspiration in Greek mythology. The Greek Goddess, Iris was thought to be the link between the God and earth and the personification of the magical rainbow. In ancient Greece, purple Irises were planted on women’s graves so that the Goddess Iris would accompany them on their journey to heaven.

Interestingly, some Iris varieties have long been used to make perfumes as well as alcoholic beverages such as gin. Bombay Sapphire for example contains ‘Orris root’ taken from the rhizomes of the Iris Germanica and the Iris pallida to give flavour and colour to the drink.  For perfumes aged Iris rhizomes are steam-distilled to create an ‘Orris oil’ which is said to create a scent similar to Violets. Many perfumes available now contain Iris absolue and you’ll find it in scents from Chanel to Prada and Serge Lutens. The production of Iris oil is pretty complicated and uses rhizomes of flowers that have already grown for at least three years before harvesting. This makes it an expensive oil to produce and it takes an incredible 40,000 tons of rhizomes to make only 1 kg of iris absolute! 


Back to out humble little reticulata dwarf variety however. Caring for this Iris is fairly simple. It likes a moist but well drained soil in partial to full sun. The only thing that may be a problem is slugs so the best idea is to drop a few copper coins into the planter where they grow as slugs don’t like copper.
Plant source: Homeland, Sligo.
The L’Occitaine Garden at Chelsea Flower Show
This year the French natural beauty brand L’Occitane celebrates their 40 year anniversary at the Chelsea Flower Show. The brand have teamed up with renowned Gold medallist Garden Designer James Basson for the second year in a row to celebrate the brands humble beginnings and the beauty of the harsh environment of the Provence. Basson has designed the garden around the edge of a Lavender field, so quintessentially Provençal, and looks out over rolling hills and stunted woodlands. A gentle stream runs through the woodlands and the design takes into account the many native growing plants that are local to the area, in fact over three hundred different native plants from the Provence will be used to create a garden that is a true representation of the area, something this South of France based designer and his team do so wonderfully. The Chelsea Flower Show runs from the 24 – 28 May 2016 for more info go to or see James website for more
Leonie Loves 
Iris bleu & Iris blanc
At the age of 23, Olivier Baussan started to distill Rosemary essential oils for sale at a locale Provence market. This was the start of a brand that even today is synonymous with the charm and beauty of the Provence region. From a humble market stall to over 2,700 stores in the world L’Occitane remembers its origins and has many products based on native French plants. Native Lavender and Grasse Rose feature in many products and the Iris blue & Iris blanc is a lovely fragrance which uses the velvety, powdery fragrance of the Grasse Iris to create a mild yet fruity Iris perfume. The Iris in the perfume is sourced from Anne Dor’s nursery in Val d’Iris in Grasse and interestingly the scent combines the floral scent of the white Iris florentina from the Mediterranean with the sweet intensity of the blue Iris Pallida from Grasse. Fascinating. 
Iris bleu & Iris blanc is available at L’Occitane stores nationwide as well as selected stockists. For more visit
Readers Question
Dear Leonie,
This year I decided to plant up some Tulips in a pot and went for a lovely combination of three layers of bulbs specifically for a container. I planted them about 3 weeks ago but nothing seems to be happening. Am I being too impatient or do you think there is a problem with the bulbs? Perhaps I am doing something wrong with how I am caring for them…I water them about twice a week and have placed them in a sunny spot on my patio.

Joan, Galway

Hi Joan,
Growing a combinations of Tulips in a pot is fabulous. I have seen many wonderful examples of opulently planted containers from Terracotta to metal dustbins and when planted right Tulips put on a wonderful show. The first thing I’d say is that the best time to plant Tulips is in Autumn, when the bulbs are given a Winter season to produce roots, meaning they have a sufficient root system in Spring. You see, Tulips need a spell of cold temperature to encourage them to flower. If you do plant the bulbs in early Spring they may just take that bit longer to get growing, but sometimes they do not produce flowers. The first thing I’d ask you is did you check the bulbs before planting them? I always look at the texture of the bulb to make sure there is no softness and that there is no mould on them as this will mean they have possibly not been stored correctly and are past their sell by date meaning they should not be planted. The next thing is planting the bulbs to the correct depth. For most Tulips the rule would be if the Tulip is about 3cm long then the soil covering them should be about double that. Then with regard to spacing, if you want a really opulent display I like to get them in quite close together, maybe 6cm or so apart. IA good idea is also to stagger them somewhat in depth-think about planting a few of the bulbs at a slightly lower level so that the flowers will not all be the same height, making the arrangement look very natural. You can also use a mix or early, mid and late varieties meaning that one will take over from the other and giving a longer lasting display. I also like to use a trick English garden designer David Domoney showed me years ago: when placing in the Tulips to the soil twist them around into it as though you’re twisting a lightbulb. Clever.  With regard to your question of time,  it depends on the type of Tulip, if you’re planting spring flowering ones then you need to plant them in the previous Autumn. I recently planted some early Summer Tulips in a container just because I loved them and couldn’t force myself to wait until Autumn and it only took a week and a half for the tips to start showing, I did however leave them in my fridge for a week to simulate Winter and then fed them with a good quality fertilizer. It will be interesting now to see if they flower, fingers crossed. If not then they will have a great start for the following season.  I’d say be patient with your own, sometimes the process can take longer depending on your soil conditions and weather. I’d love to see them if they do come out, send me a picture!

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