Irises in Italian Gardens

How to Use Iris Flowers in Italy

iris flowers

Members of the Iris family (Iridaceae) have sprung from almost every country- and every corner of this world can boast at having its own variety. But surely for most it must be Italy that springs to mind as the month of April arrives, with the old stone walls of Tuscany teeming with native blue species, in a region where the flower has come to symbolize much of their history. The Florentine Iris flower, discoverable in tuscan gardens,  shaped like a spear and rising, elegantly from a poor, dry earth- soon came to symbolize the struggles overcome in the bloody wars of Renaissance Tuscany.

iris flower ready to bloom

Every season of the year can be blessed with the presence of this sensual flower and varieties of this plant can be found growing as happily in water as in the driest of old stone walls. It can range in height from the tallest Japanese varieties (I.ensata) at around 4ft right down to a few inches in the case of I.cristata or I.unguicularis (below).

iris flowers

This plants obvious international success story could be put down to its feminine charms and to the remarkable way that it seduces its primary pollinator- the humble bee.

A passing bee, ‘love-struck’ by the stunning beauty and vivid colors of this most remarkable of flowers is then enticed, almost hypnotized, to follow the elusive designs on the landing pad of the flower, which all lead tantalizingly to the nectar and the reproductive parts of the flower. The bee is then forced to squeeze its way into the flower eagerly to get to that nectar while a specially developed sepal pushes the insect down on the flowers pollen deposits, forcing it to load up on pollen (the DNA info of the plant), without even realizing it.

This poor guy is then forced to exit in such a way that ensures the pollen packs get unloaded on the correct, female, receptive organs- thus fertilizing the plant.

iris flowers

A most sensual flower gladly displays her manipulative, seductive flowers, while spell-bounding insects and humans alike with her stunning prowess.

colorful petals

This, most feminine of flowers, who resists the driest of situations and loves taking as much sun as possible has also had a major influence on the perfume industry due to a powerful scent fixer present in the rhizome (root) of the Iris. The cultivation of Iris in Italy and France had an important effect on rural agriculture during the 18th century and before.

The attractive iris is a plant that offers the garden designer a vast array of colors and heights that are extremely humble regarding their choice of soils- growing happily in the hottest, driest areas. Flowering in April, they offer the perfect flower display to follow an explosion of spring bulbs. The flowering of the Iris germanica (most common in Tuscany) anticipates the flowering of the lavender and they can occasionally be found in flower at the same time, offering a color spectacle second to none.

iris flowers

The female attraction of this glorious debutante of flowering beauties can hardly be denied. However its elegant charms can be easily acquired with the minimum of effort or investment- the perfect lady one could say a lady that has the art of attraction down to a fine tee.

Jonathan Radford

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