This Iris Walk at Chartwell is just coming into its own right now, despite the nasty way in which our weather at the moment seems to be doing its best to put some self respecting flowers from being tempted into bloom. We have dozens of different bearded Irises in this part of the garden of almost every colour imaginable. Some have been in flower for a while, others are just starting to unfurl while other still are still keeping their floral cards close to their chests! Either way, now is a great time to come and check them out for yourself.
Bearded Irises, also known as Pogon Irises, usually produce large distinctive flowers in the classic unmistakable Iris shape, with large falls (lower central petal) and standards (raised upper petals) and a prominent ‘beard’ of white or coloured hairs in the centre of each petal. They can bloom from early Spring to early Summer and most bear multiple flowers per stem.
The Iris Walk can be found immediately below the Main Terrace lawn retaining wall. As well as the many Irises here you will also find the likes of Clematis, climbing roses, aromatic shrubs and much more. Sir Winston Churchill originally had this section of the garden set aside for grazing of livestock but by the mid 20th Century photographs show that he had created the more formalized parkland area similar to how you will see it today. The narrow border was widened by National Trust garden supervisor and garden designer Lanning Roper when the Trust took charge of Chartwell in 1965. New selections of Iris were planted there in 1990, all supplied from an Iris specialist called Kelways Nursery.
Bearded Irises have surface rhizomes which should be partially exposed or sometimes thinnly covered with soil in very hot climates. They hate being shaded by other plants and also aren’t keen on heavy mulches being applied too close to their roots or rhizomes. Dividing them every 3 to 5 years can improve vitality and flowering as well as being a cheap and easy way to get new plants for free!
The Irises I’ve shown you in this blog are just a mere smattering of the selection we have on offer. Some of the older planted varieties we aren’t even sure of the name of as unfortunately records were not always kept during the Churchills’ tenure. If anyone reckons they can safely identify this little cracker for example, then please let us know…
When you next pay us a visit, make sure you bring your cameras so that you can take lots of pretty pictures of our Irises and everything else we have on offer here in the gardens at Chartwell right now. You can even submit your best snaps to our Chartwell Calendar Photography competition, but hurry up, the closing date of the end of June is fast approaching…