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!