Whilst visiting Somerset in the last week of May I was delighted with the amount of late spring / early summer irises in flower. Irises are such beautiful flowers – so many types and colours and textures and contrasting patterns. Early spring Iris reticulata (the dwarf irises) and the summer Dutch irises grow from bulbs and those that grow from rhizomes include bearded irises, beardless like Iris Sibirica, and crested irises. Many have intricate, showy markings on the outer petals, like flowers on a flower.
An iris has two types of petals called ‘falls’ and ‘standards’. The falls are the three petals that are curved downwards – they are falling away from the centre of the flower. The standards are three petals that are standing straight up.
In many iris the standards and falls are quite distinct, but in some, like the Japanese iris, the standards are mostly horizontal and start looking like falls. In all cases the standards are the three upper most petals.
The beard is a fuzzy patch at the base of each falls petal. Locate the falls petal and look at it near the centre of the flower. The beard is usually quite distinct and you can feel the fuzzy hair-like feature. If the petal is not fuzzy, it is not bearded.