Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Iris Garden

A little-known and short-lived floral extravaganza is underway right now in Florence.  The Giardino della Società Italiana dell’ Iris (Garden of the Italian Iris Society) is open to the public while the vast plantings of bearded iris (iris barbate) are in bloom.  (April 25 – May 20, 2012) 

Begun in the mid-1950s as the site for an annual international competition for the best iris variety, the garden is set among olive trees that range down the eastern shoulder of the slopes below Piazzale Michelangelo.   Growers from around the world send rhizomes to Florence where they are cultivated for three years before being judged.  The 56th annual Il Premio Firenze competition is being judged now, with the winner to receive a gold Florin.  

One reason Florence was first chosen to host the competition is the belief by many that the emblem on the city banner is not a lily–the fleur de lis–but rather a red iris.  So there is also a special award given each year to the red iris that best embodies that image. 

One of the oldest depictions of Firenze's floral emblem
is painted in the so-called Lily Room in the Palazzo Vecchio.
Below, an enlargement.  A Lily or an Iris?

Each year a new planting bed is cultivated for the arriving iris hybrids, and they seem to remain for at least ten years after their show date.  The older beds are still producing some beautiful flowers, but the 2011 and 2012 beds are ablaze with spectacular blooms.  Below are some photos taken last Tuesday.  If you happen to be in Florence this week, catch the #12 or #13 bus to Piazzale Michelangelo and enjoy the garden yourself.  More information is here.


An older set of hybrid iris, some still vigorous and beautiful.

Looking northeast.

The competition bed for last year, 2011.

A judge works through the 2012 abundance.

Not everything is an iris.  Here is a bed of Aquilegia (Columbine).

Wild red poppies certify springtime in an uncultivated patch among old olive trees.
Roses also bloom among the trees.

1 comment:

  1. How do the judges decide the winner?! They are all so beautiful! I really like the picture with the citta' in the background. Frameable for sure. So maybe the French did not know the difference between an iris and a lily. Fleur d'iris it is then! Those silly Frenchmen!!