Glamorous garden flowers – The Iris


Irises are a great favourite not least with some of the world’s most famous artists. Vincent van Gogh painted several ‘Iris’ pictures depicting clumps of bearded irises.

van Gogh irises

Irises – Vincent van Gogh. 1889. Oil on canvas. 93 x 71 cm. J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA, US

Then, of course, there was Monet’s garden where irises had been planted en masse.


Le jardin de l’artiste à Giverny. Claude Monet. 1900. Oil on canvas. H81.6cm x L. 92.6cm Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France.

And, it’s not just Western artists that have been inspired by the iris. The iris’s complex, sculptural form has been exquisitely represented in Japanese Edo Period woodblock images.


Grasshopper and Iris. Katsushika Hokusai. Late 1820s. Woodblock print, ink and paper. H 24.8 x L 36 cm Metropolitan Museum, New York, US.

I recently cleared all my father’s tulip display and noticed the irises were just about to bloom, unfortunately he couldn’t see them from the house. It feels sacrilegious to cut them in their prime, but better to appreciate them fleetingly indoors than not at all.


If bearded irises are cut with full buds they will then open over two or three days.

And, I thought these particular colours as well as the irises’ luscious form combined well to make a design that I could possibly develop further sometime in the future for some silk scarves.

irises-square copy 2

Or perhaps this less muted more fresh combination.

iris-ideas copy


About agnesashe

Artisan, blogger and passionate East Anglian working from home.
This entry was posted in Art History, Flowers and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Glamorous garden flowers – The Iris

  1. I am not fond of irises but I do love their colors, and I think they would make fantastic scarf inspirations.

    • agnesashe says:

      Yes, their range of colours is quite amazing. As a cut flower, I think with irises, it’s a case of less is definitely more. Personally I like the Japanese Ikebana arrangements with their restrained use of irises.

  2. Frivolous says:

    You Dad’s flowers do look lovely. Just a pity that the bees can’t get at them now. Sometimes I have put a vase of bought cut flowers out during the day, for the bees, but I don’t know if that works the same or they can tell the difference.

    • agnesashe says:

      Oh I don’t see why the bees wouldn’t visit if there was accessible nectar! My father’s old garden had quite a few plants chosen for bees, plenty of single, easy access blooms. However, his Californian Lilac (ceanothus ‘Dark Star’) was the bees number one favourite with the whole large shrub positively humming for several weeks.

  3. margaret21 says:

    I really learnt to appreciate the iris in France. So many subtle shades I’ve rarely seen here, and massed in wonderful blocks of colour. Lovely post.

    • agnesashe says:

      Yes, France is renowned for their iris breeders and I saw (on Gardeners’ World I think) that the famous Cayeux have shown at Chelsea now for several years. Some of their unusual colour combinations are stunning.

  4. Well, we just bought a bunch at the markets this morning – purple. And some golden yellow tiger lilies. Not sure whether that is sacrilegious, but it’s the best we can do seeing we don’t have a garden 🙂 That second last shot would make a fabulous scarf – but surely it would be very complicated to create?

    • agnesashe says:

      Not sacrilegious at all if grown for cutting – my father’s were originally planted to brighten up a very dry and free draining slope in the garden. However, as he has been too poorly to get down the garden I thought their display was being wasted this year. Of course, there is that old allotment tradition of having beds of irises, dahlias or chrysanthemums for cutting. Am temporarily with my father in a flat whilst house-hunting and the idea of an allotment is very appealing!

      • It’s not a system that gained popularity in australia (allotments), probably because space wasn’t an issue originally. Whenever I see it in English programs it looks very convivial. You do need soul nurturing so that is a good solution. In the space of a few days our irises have moved from barely visible buds to full bloom with yellow throats. . By market day, three days away, it will be time to replace them. And no bees visiting of course 😀

      • agnesashe says:

        I did wonder about allotments in Australia. I didn’t think with all your space it would be of much interest. I used to think it was a very British thing, but when I lived in Germany many people had allotments with a ‘grand’ shed that they spent most of their summer weekends at.😊

  5. rthepotter says:

    Iris are just gorgeous – such a unique and complex shape. My flag iris died on me, but the siberian iris are still going strong. This year the Japanese water iris look as if they might put on a real show in the teeny pond – waiting with hope.

    • agnesashe says:

      Yes, I lost a flag iris too. Thought they were pretty easy to grow. On reflection perhaps it required more constant moisture than fluctuations between being flooded to nearly bone dry? Looking forward to seeing the Japanese water iris photos. 😊

      • rthepotter says:

        I think my flag iris were eaten by something. Water iris now out and photo posted. Not as robust as flags – more suited to water colour than oils, do you think?

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