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Gardeners are drawn to the beardless irises because many of them make good garden plants needing little care or attention. Some parts of the country can relish sunny
free-draining borders and can enjoy the dazzling displays of the bearded irises, but for most of the UK the beardless will cope far more easily and be much more rewarding.
Below is a brief outline of the main types:
Often known by the misleading species' name of 'Iris sibirica'
, the vast majority are hybrids between I. sibirica
and I. sanguinea
, and now a more recently found
species is being used by hybridisers, I. typhifolia
. Accordingly, it is safer in general to refer to them as 'Siberian Irises'. These are really the stalwarts of many a border, flowering at the end of May
and into June. Traditionally flowers were white or violet-blue, but Dr Currier McEwen introduced the yellow 'Butter and Sugar' in the 1970's and those in pink or tending towards red are
now available. The typical flower shape (3 falls & 3 standards) was modified in the 1950s with Cassebeer's 'White Swirl' which had almost horizontal 'falls' and this is in the parentage
of many modern Siberians. At the present time, work is still continuing to push the colour range wider, lengthen the flowering period, change the height. Various shapes are now possible including
'6 falls' which resemble Japanese irises and some of our members like the new doubles! A lot has happened in the last century.
from Japan and nearby China has been hybridised in Japan for centuries, but only started being grown in the West since the end of the 19th Century. The colour range is slightly more restricted from
that of the Siberians, but they tend to give a lighter more airy feel. They can really add to the atmosphere of a pond-side planting. Japanese irises generally do not behave well on lime, preferring a neutral to acid soil. Frequently sold as 'pond plants', they are happy in a retentive
flower border or grown in a pot. You can even stand the pot in the edge of the pond during summer, as long as you lift it out by autumn.