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Irises: the showpiece perennial of the late spring/ early summer garden

No plant says spring more than the delightful iris. Irises are one of Ladybrook Nursery’s favourite spring perennials. The tall beautiful iris is the showpiece of every late spring/early summer garden. They are the perfect plant for attracting bees and butterflies into the garden, and make lovely cut flowers for displays.

The iris’ distinctive flowers have three large outer petals called “falls” and three inner upright petals called “standards.” The falls may have beards or crests. Most irises flower in late spring/early summer, though some bearded hybrids, are ‘remontant’ perennials and will flower again later in the summer.

Here are some of our favourite irises:

Iris germanica ‘Blue’

Iris germanica ‘Blue’, or the Bearded iris ‘Blue Shimmer’ is a hardy, large bulbous perennial with green foliage and bold, silvery-blue and white fragrant flowers in summer. It will reach a height of 0.6m and a spread of 0.5m after 2-5 years. Plant in moist, but well-drained, neutral to slightly alkaline loam in full sun or partial shade. Mulch in spring.

Type: perennial

Height: 60cm

Foliage: green

Flower colour: lavender blue

Flowering: spring

Aspect: full sun or partial shade

Iris pallida ‘Argentea Variagata’

Iris pallida ‘Argentea Variegata’, or the Zebra iris, is a perennial, rhizomatous bearded Iris with semi-evergreen, upright, sword-like foliage that is blue-green striped with cream and white. In early summer it produces fragrant, soft blue flowers. Plant in full sun in well-drained, fertile, neutral to slightly acid, loamy soil. Will need staking in windy situations.

Type: perennial

Height: 1m

Foliage: grey-green edged white

Flower colour: light blue-purple, fragrant

Flowering: spring

Aspect: full sun or partial shade

Iris pseudocorus ‘Variagata’

Iris pseudocorus ‘Variagata’, or the Yellow flag ‘Variegata’, is an extremely vigorous, rhizomatous, deciduous perennial which forms an extensive clump of erect, sword-shaped, grey-green leaves with pale yellow or white stripes. Yellow flowers with brown or purple- veined falls bloom in summer. It has been awarded an RHS AGM (Award of Garden Merit).

Plant in full sun in moist to wet, humus-rich, acid soil at pond or stream margins. Care must be taken or the plant will naturalise and colonise if unsupervised. Do not allow to dry out.

Type: perennial

Height: 1.5m

Foliage: green striped yellowish-white

Flower colour: large bright yellow

Flowering: spring to summer

Aspect: full sun or partial shade

Iris sibirica ‘Butter and Sugar’

Iris sibirica ‘Butter and Sugar’ is a clump-forming, herbaceous perennial with upright, strap-like, grey-green leaves and tall, erect stems bearing white flowers with yellow falls in late spring. The perennial has been awarded an RHS AGM (Award of Garden Merit). It will tolerate most soil types, but does not appreciate being waterlogged.

Type: perennial

Height: 1.2m

Foliage: green

Flower colour: large creamy-white with pale yellow falls

Flowering: May to June

Aspect: full sun or partial shade

Iris sibirica ‘Perry’s Blue’

Iris sibirica ‘Perry’s Blue’ is a clump-forming, herbaceous perennial with narrow, strap-shaped, grey-green leaves and, in late spring and early summer, clear blue flowers with white and yellow markings and dark blue veins on the falls. Will tolerate most soil types, but needs good drainage.

Type: perennial

Height: 85cm

Foliage: grey-green

Flower colour: sky-blue with white markings

Flowering: May to June

Aspect: full sun or partial shade

Iris sibirica ‘White Swirl’

Iris sibirica ‘White Swirl’ has pure white flowers, flushed with yellow at the base of the falls, and narrow linear leaves in early summer. The plant has been awarded an RHS AGM (Award of Garden Merit). It will tolerate most loamy, sandy, chalky and clay soils, but needs good drainage. It is important to ensure the plant doesn’t get waterlogged.

Type: perennial

Height: 1m

Foliage: bright green

Flower colour: pure white with rounded petals and yellow throat

Flowering: May to June

Aspect: full sun or partial shade

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