9 May 2018

Awaiting Edith

Iris 'Edith Wolford' flower bud


There is so much to be amazed at in the garden at the moment.  I tidied up this border (the 'Washing Line' border) over the weekend, including taking old leaves off the iris rhizomes so I know for a fact that there were no flower buds there.  Just fans of sword shaped leaves which, in itself, adds to the overall visual interest.  And then, yesterday, these appeared.  Whoah, how did that happen?! (I'm guessing a few days of hot sunshine might have helped.)

Given the speed that the flower stem appeared, I'm now on a daily watch for the flowers themselves. This is 'Edith Wolford'; she's a classy Iris germanica, reliably flowering in May/June, and has been slowly spreading out across this border since I brought her home from the Chelsea flower show a few years ago.

I didn't realise how much I loved Irises until I saw Edith on the Hardy's Cottage Garden Plants stand.  It was a must-have, love-at-first-sight, moment.  She's a beauty with creamy yellow standards (the upright petals) and blue-violet falls (the downward petals) with an orange beard in the centre - looks a bit like a hairy caterpillar!  A stunner in the looks department and her presence in this border brings together the purple alliums, Erysimum Bowles' Mauve, lavender, Perovskia, etc, with the yellow flowers of Santolina (cotton lavender), alpines and yellow-green New Zealand flax.

The 'Washing Line' border in late May 2017 - see what I mean about blending with the rest?


Growers tip:
Something I learned during my Capel Manor days was that the top of the rhizomes (the roots that look like raw ginger) need to be exposed and baked during the summer in order to promote flowering the following year.  I made the mistake of covering the rhizomes when I first planted Edith and had no flowers the following year - swiftly corrected when I knew better! Since then (years 3 and 4, 2016/17) I've had more and more flowers, several on each stem, so am eagerly anticipating Edith's arrival this year.

The Back Story:
I wish I knew more about the naming of irises because I'd love to know who Edith Wolford was/is - I do love a bit of background. The name suggests a character from James Joyce or E.M. Forster but I like to think that she was a renowned actress, a diva, a famous beauty; the reality is probably that she was a pillar of the community, a friend or beloved relative.  My internet search reveals only an elementary school in Colorado, USA.  Do tell if you can shed some light!

Irises were originally purple (or so I've read) and represent royalty and wisdom - hence inspiring the French Fleur-de-lis symbol. Yes, that does translate as lily flower but irises were classed as lilies until the 18th Century.  The flowers were known long before that, being discovered by the Pharoahs of Egypt when they conquered Syria and also known to the Ancient Greeks who named the flower for Iris, goddess of the rainbow; to this day, irises are placed on graves to form a passage between heaven and earth.

I've only the one iris for now but every year think that I need some more, maybe a reflowering or later type. Hands up - anyone else in the Iris Appreciation Society?


10 comments:

  1. Beautiful group of plants. Not much of a help here as we only have reticulate in the garden but confusa would be a wonderful addition in the near future.

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    1. I wasn't aware of Iris confusa but have now looked it up (The Frustrated Gardener blog has a lovely post on it) and think this would be perfect at the back of the washing line border as it's shaded by the Cordyline australis 'trees'. Thanks for the suggestion! x

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  2. We have a few irises. We did have a variety of colours but now most seem to be purple.

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    1. I wonder if they change over time, Sue. In the same way that variegated plants sometimes revert to plain leaves ... ? I suppose all modern cultivars will eventually revert back over time but disappointing if you had a particular favourite. Or perhaps the purple ones are the strongest survivors?

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  3. Thanks for finally talking about >"Awaiting Edith" <Loved it!

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  4. I'm particularly fond of the Reticulata and blue Siberian Irises. From that pic, Edith does look really good in that border.

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    1. I have a lot to learn about Irises - so many different types! I bought lots of Iris reticulata this year for the early spring border in the middle garden - I'm not sure they could take the heat and wind of this washing line border. I think a little yellow iris might pop up as well near to Edith - I planted one from a bought pot a few years back - but this border is so dry that it might have given up!

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  5. Edith is gorgeous, she sits so prettily in that border. A lovely post, I did enjoy it.xxx

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  6. Oh so much promise there Caro about to unfurl. Edith looks like a fine lady. There was a fabulous display at Malvern by the West and Midlands Group of The Iris Society. I'll post a photo on my blog soon. Maybe if you contacted the national Iris Society they might be able to shed light on her name :)

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Caro x

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