The Iris Project
We have been building a collection of irises and now have well over 500 cultivars. These include both historic plants, which are typically simpler in form, and many modern medal winners. The majority are tall bearded irises but we also have intermediate, border and miniature tall bearded types as well as some standard dwarf irises and miniature irises and we are starting to collect some beardless irises. We also have many types reputed to rebloom in Autumn if given some watering through the Summer.
We have now obtained authorisation as a “vivaio” (plant nursery) and have launched our online shop (IrisUmbria.it) supplying iris rhizomes as bare root plants in the lifting season in the autumn. Our stock will be very limited at first but once our plants multiply we will be able to offer an impressive range.
We have built a beautiful display garden, where you can see the full collection of bearded irises in raised beds, an array of water irises and those liking wetter soil growing around a large pond, and mixed borders of irises, peonies, roses, clematis, grasses and other herbaceous perennials. In the flowering season this will be open to visitors and it will provide year round pleasure for guests staying in our two rental properties.
Our irises appreciate the same well-drained conditions that olives require and so the plan is that, as the collection grows and we need even more space for them, they will grow happily alongside our 160 newly planted olive trees. They are grown amongst olives at the famous iris gardens above Florence, so this is not a novel concept.
You can visit our separate website for the iris nursery: irisUmbria.it and you can follow the iris project on facebook or twitter and view an album of our irises on flikr.
We will be developing our own records of growth habits and photographing them in situ as we progress with this project. (This did not start brilliantly in that my ipad has managed to delete without trace the notes I was keeping on the first
Some photos of the work in progress.
In addition to growing a wide range of irises as plants for the garden and as cut flowers, we are evaluating the possibility of producing orris root. This is the dried root of the Florentina iris and is used in perfumes and cosmetics. It is still grown as a commercial crop in some parts of Tuscany, so why not in Umbria? Admittedly, preparation of the roots for extraction of the valuable “orris butter” may prove dauntingly labour intensive. However, we thought we’d experiment with a row of Iris pallida (dalmatica) and a row of Iris Florentina (both of which are cited as sources of orris root) to see which of them fares better. Also tempting (but equally labour intensive) is growing roses for rose oil, as is done in Bulgaria with R. damascena. Just imagine a field with alternate stripes of blue irises and carmine roses! One can dream...