Iris ensata grows wild all over the Japanese archipelago and can also be seen naturalised in northern China, Siberia and Korea. Centuries of intensive cultivation by Japanese collectors and hybridisers have brought this Iris to its present state of magnificence.
The Americans have taken this species to their hearts and like Hostas, Hemerocallis and Camellias, they have developed and raised new cultivars in a myriad of colour combinations. They have a society that holds shows and conventions to further the interest in these exotic yet short lived flowers. Each flower may only last one day and the flowering period can be over in a three week spell, although the odd flower is often produced later, even in autumn.
During 1992, Dr Smart, the creator of Marwood Hill gardens, spent two weeks in America visiting several Iris nurseries and growers and attending the main show for Iris blooms. He brought back many new cultivars and it is these together with others we had previously which has formed the national collection. In holding a collection of Iris, it would be virtually impossible to collect and grow all known forms and cultivars, so although we have more than 200 this is a fraction of the four or five thousand that have been bred and named.
The end of June and for most of July is when the Iris bloom and they create a spectacular sight. The list could be endless of which cultivars to recommend, far better to see them for oneself and appreciate the beauty and charm of these Japanese Iris.