Irises, named after the Greek Goddess of the Rainbow are one of the most seductive of flowers and once smitten with this genus it is likely to be a long lasting love affair. With over 200 species in the Iris family it is possible to have an Iris flowering in your garden nearly every month of the year. Irises either grow from bulbs or from rhizomes; these can be quite large or very tiny.
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Bulbous Irises include those known as Xiphium, Reticulata and Juno. The most common of these is Iris xiphium which gives us the Dutch Iris frequently used by florists. Iris reticulata is becoming more widely available and this sweet little Iris produces dainty flowers from July to September. It is an ideal container Iris.
Rhizomatous Irises consist of groups known as Bearded, Beardless and Crested. Beardless Irises include, Pacific Coast, Siberian, Spuria, Louisiana and Japanese Irises. Beardless Irises usually have a flash of colour on the falls or lower petals; this is called a signal and is specifically designed to attract bees. Bearded Irises have a beard instead of a signal. The beard looks a bit like a fuzzy caterpillar and it too is designed to guide the bees into the flower along with trapping their pollen. Crested Irises have a small raised area called a crest instead of a signal or a beard.
Iris flowers come in a rainbow of colours and are made up of 6 petals; 3 upper petals called standards and 3 lower petals called falls. Many Irises have a wonderful fragrance. The beautiful Iris has been revered since ancient times with the rhizomes (orris root) being sought after for medicinal remedies. The Iris has also been used as a symbol in heraldry for centuries and is known as the 'Fleur de lis' which literally translated means Flower of the Lily! Not a Lily at all but an enchanting, elegant, irresistible Iris.