Grower questions colour focus

Focus on new iris colours and shapes neglects plants' form and function, says Simon Dodsworth.

Irises: homegrown plants overlooked in favour of overseas varieties - image: HW
Irises: homegrown plants overlooked in favour of overseas varieties - image: HW

Homegrown irises are being overlooked for overseas varieties and there is too much emphasis on finding new colour breaks rather than on form and function of the plants, according to English Iris Company (EIC) owner Simon Dodsworth.

"In recent years the focus of many hybridisers has been to develop new colours and flower shapes, with scant attention paid to the style and structure of the plant on which the flowers are carried. This causes real difficulty with many modern introductions," he said.

"To complicate things further, there is a bewildering choice of tall bearded irises on the market today, with some catalogues containing many hundreds of individual varieties with a wide colour range. However, a quick scan of the catalogues online does not make easy reading and fails often to provide the essential information to make an informed choice."

Catalogues do not say whether the flower is in proportion to the stem height, he added. "Modern trends for larger flower size mean that blooms are often unbalanced and out of proportion."

The catalogues also fail to specify whether the flowers are carried too close to the stem, whether the flower buds are spaced evenly along the stem or at the top or even whether the plants are suited to UK conditions.

"Interest in British tall bearded irises has all but disappeared in the last 20 years. Cheaper foreign travel and availability through the internet has encouraged many customers to buy from abroad," said Dodsworth.

"Commercial pressure and the premium value of something new/different each year have seen a lowering of the quality of many recent introductions to the UK market. Digitally enhanced images of fantastically coloured and patterned blooms, some with spectacular appendages to the beards, are produced to seduce the customer. However, so often the living plant disappoints."

He added: "The EIC's focus on British irises is a deliberate attempt to redress the balance and celebrate some of the best introductions over the last 50 years."

Many were hybridised by the late Bryan Dodsworth. The EIC is working on other ranges with Barry Emmerson, current president of the British Iris Society.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Sign up now
Already registered?
Sign in

Read These Next

Trees and Shrubs - Planting benefits

Trees and Shrubs - Planting benefits

The message that health, the environment and business all benefit from trees is finally getting through, but are nurseries seeing an upturn? Sally Drury reports.



These evergreen trees and shrubs have decorative bark and can flower and fruit simultaneously, says Miranda Kimberley.

Four Oaks Trade Show 2018 - Product Solutions

Four Oaks Trade Show 2018 - Product Solutions

The latest products have all been designed to make growing more productive and to help sell more plants, says Sally Drury.

Opinion... Democracy is a hindrance to good place making

Opinion... Democracy is a hindrance to good place making

A farmer close by the small village of Green Hammerton in North Yorkshire is promoting his farm as a site for 3,000 new homes. It is slap-bang in the middle of the countryside at the mid-point between York and Harrogate.

Opinion... How to increase UK plant supply

Opinion... How to increase UK plant supply

Why don't UK growers produce more of the plants that the UK market demands?

Opinion... Co-operation is industry's best card

Opinion... Co-operation is industry's best card

What a great trade this is when one of us needs help. "The Container Revolution" co-operative exhibit at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show is a good example.

Follow us on:
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Google +
Horticulture Jobs
More Horticulture Jobs

Horticulture Week Top 60 Ornamentals nurseries

See our exclusive RANKING of ornamentals nurseries by annual turnover plus the FULL REPORT AND ANALYSIS

Tim Edwards

Boningales Nursery chairman Tim Edwards on the business of ornamentals production

Read Tim Edwards

Pest & Disease Tracker bulletin 

The latest pest and disease alerts, how to treat them, plus EAMU updates, sent direct to your inbox.

Sign up here

Are you a landscape supplier?

Horticulture Week Landscape Project Leads

If so, you should be receiving our new service for Horticulture Week subscribers delivering landscape project leads from live, approved, planning applications across the UK.

Peter Seabrook

Inspiration and insight from travels around the horticultural world

Read more Peter Seabrook articles