Irises for Cut Flowers - Part Two
Iris x robusta 'Gerald Darby'
Iris × robusta is a designation for hybrids of two native American irises (Iris versicolor × Iris virginica). 'Gerald Darby' is a rhizomatous perennial to 1.2m in height, with arching, narrow leaves and purplish stems bearing 3-4 violet-purple flowers, the falls whitish at the base with a yellow flash and dark veins. Grow in full sun in a damp location.
Iris foetidissima is one of only two iris species native to Britain, The poor plant must suffer from an identity crisis. When researching it, it was described as smelly and having boring flowers. I however, I love the fact that it is evergreen and is very tough. The botanical name refers to the fact that the crushed leaves are smelly which I have never noticed. The flowers are actually very nice. It is the perfect iris for a shady spot, particularly beneath trees, where other plants struggle. In autumn its large seedpods split open to reveal rows of orange-red seeds that remain well into winter.
As its name suggests, this is a water iris from the swamps of Louisiana. It is found growing in shallow water or boggy and marginal areas. This iris is evergreen and tolerates light frosts. However, I have been able to grow them in a sheltered position successfully for years in an area that gets heavy frost. I grow mine in damp areas of the garden on in pots placed in my ponds. Plants placed in the pond must have their crown above the water.
How to Harvest Iris Flowers
Harvest your flowers early in the day. Choose buds that are just beginning to open rather than flowers that are fully open. These buds will open within a few hours with the rest of the buds on the stem opening over the next couple of days. Place your flowers in a bucket of tepid water until you are ready to create your arrangement. When you are ready to arrange the iris flowers, re-cut the stems about 2cm above the original cut at an angle under water. Remove spent flowers immediately. Take care as some irises colours will bled and can stain. Check the water level of your vase often and top up as required. Replace water and recut stems every second or third day. Place your vase in an area that is cool and away from direct sunlight and drafts.