Irises have been grown in English gardens since the seventeenth century. Bearded irises are not actually bulbs, but rhizomes, a kind of thick brown root.
They have flat, sword-like leaves, and often quite a strong scent. The name “iris” comes from the Greek word for rainbow and represents faith, valour and wisdom.
They are called bearded irises because they have three upright "standards" and three "falls" (three petals that face upwards and three that hang down). On the standards there are tufts of fine hairs - hence the beard! These hairs can be the same colour as the standards or sometimes a browny-orange colour making them stand out more.
They are a very easy plant to grow and drought tolerant, so are good for areas with little or no summer rains.
They flower from April to June and go well with poppies, daylilies, peonies and lavender, though remember to keep them in the sun and not allow the other flowers to shade them.
How to grow
Bearded Irises like a sunny spot with well drained soil, but will grow quite well with less drainage in drier areas. You can always add a handful of grit when planting them as they hate waterlogged ground and this makes the rhizome's roots rot.
Plant in groups of three, five or seven
Hardy in zones 3-9, they grow to 30in-43in or 75cm-110cm .
Plant the rhizomes approx 9-12inches or 22-30cm apart in late summer to early autumn, in full sun with the tops just above the ground.
In autumn, remove any faded blooms and stalks.
As the foliage dies back in late autumn, the leaves can be cut back to 6 inches which will help to prevent the spread of disease.
To get the best flowers in your English Garden the rhizomes should be dug up and divided every three to four years - this is best done from August to September.
The original bearded iris germanica has a purple flower but today you can get them ina wide variety of colours.
Here is a selection for you to look out for
Harbour Blue is a lovely shade of blue
For a stunning white flower try English Cottage.
Anything Goes is a raspberry pink colour
For a peachy cream try English Charm
Sable is a deep rich purple and scented.
Pink Bubbles is as you would expect by its name a lovely soft pink
Lady Essex has white with delicate violet markings and is scented
Sunny Disposition primrose yellow with a sweet fragrance.
Enjoy your English Garden.