For the last few weeks I have been enjoying the pleasure of seeing my Cedric Morris irises come into bloom. They are so beautiful - the colour, patterns, textures and fabric of the flowers are amazing - almost like exotic insects. They have been slowly unfurling and standing in stately grace despite the recent bashing of the rain and wind.
Sir Cedric Morris, artist plantsman, propagated his own irises at Benton End in Hadleigh, where he ran an Art School from 1940 and lived there until 1982. According to local writer Ronald Blythe , he had Iris Parties there in June, when hundreds of irises were in bloom inside box hedges and other famous gardeners including Vita Sackville-West would come. ('Benton End Remembered' G Reynolds & D Grace). After his death his irises became scattered, but in 2004 Sarah Cook retired to Suffolk and started collecting his irises together and now has the Royal Horticultural Society National Collection of Sir Cedric Morris Irises in Shelley. She opens her garden each year at the end of May/June and you can see this splendid collection in a beautiful setting www.malmaisonsandiris.co.uk. Her plants can also be found at the plant heritage fairs at Helmingham Hall in May and September www.suffolkplantheritage.com
Last year I bought about 10 irises from Sarah and planted them in September - I was thinking that they would look best on a west facing border by the bottom wall of the garden - but that area is not under control enough at present. So I planted them somewhere where I could keep my eye on them - right outside the kitchen window at the front of one of the raised beds in the vegetable garden. They have been such a treat to watch each day!
Suffolk is well known for its Irises and as well as Sarah Cook's garden it is also worth taking a trip up to Woottens of Wenhaston, near Southwold www.woottensplants.com. They open their iris fields each year usually at the end of May/June and they are an amazing site - full of colour and spectacular blooms. They specialise in both bearded irises and iris sibirica.