Iris was the messenger between earth and sky; a Greek goddess who took the form of a rainbow and who was 'swift-footed like a storm wind'. (Homer, Iliad viii. 409.) Unsurprisingly, plants in this genus can be almost any colour and often many shades on a single flower, just like the human iris which is also named after her.
To me, irises are Art Nouveau and stately homes. I also think of Orris root powder, which is used to fix the fragrance in pot pourri. Iris is a large genus, with approximately 300 species which can grow in all manner of conditions from arid desert to riverbank, but the ones I most commonly find in the gardens I work in are the tall bearded Iris germanica.
Iris germanica 'Kent Pride' has striking chestnut standards and yellow and brown falls which pair well with the new reddish leaves of roses, and my photo shows that they have been planted as a block in this formal garden to tone in with burgundy heucheras 'Palace Purple' and, just a little further away, the bright orange, eye-like blooms of Potentilla fruticosa.
The next iris along is Iris 'Deep Black' which has violet standards and pure black silky falls and this has been paired with Sedum telephium 'Matrona' which has dark purple stems, and the deep violet flower buds of Delphinium 'King Arthur'.
On the other side of this formal garden I found a block of almost pure white 'White City' and another block of pale purple 'Jane Philips' interspersed with blocks of Nepeta 'Six Hills Giant' and Perovskia 'Blue Spire'. This part of the garden glowed in the semi-shade of the early evening.