The Italian Iris Society Garden in Florence

Last week I showed you some of the Bearded Irises (Iris germanica) that I have in my garden; they are a plant that grows particularly well in my sun-baked, free draining soil without needing any irrigation. I like the foliage too during their non-flowering season so when I read in the Italian Gardening magazine that I subscribe to that the Iris garden in Florence was open for a short period and that there were 2,000 irises on display I couldn’t wait to go!

The garden is situated just to the right of Piazzale Michelangelo where you can enjoy one of the best views of the city of Florence, so worth coming just for that.

The View from Piazzale Michelangelo over the Arno

The View from Piazzale Michelangelo over the Arno

The Iris garden was, sadly, a huge disappointment. It is set in an olive grove, which should have been the ideal situation but the site is very steep and needed to have better terraces so that the irises could have been maintained better.

Poor irises competing with grass and weeds

Poor irises competing with grass and weeds

Iries are planted among the olives

Iries are planted among the olives, these were last year’s entries to the competition

P1150245 P1150246

This is more how I imagined they would look

This is more how I imagined they would look

The area is basically divided into areas where the entries for the Iris competition each year are planted; this could have been the perfect way to see how the irises performed over time but instead they were all choked by weed and grass; even the competition entries for this year (and the day I visited was the day before judging was to take place) was only very roughly hoed, leaving most of the weed on the surface of the soil.

The Irises themselves were nothing special; most of the entrants for the competition seemed to be from the US, where they were probably unaware of the poor condition of the site. There were a few Irises I would have been happy to have in my garden but the older irises were not labelled so that it wasn’t even a particularly useful exercise to try to find a beautiful one.

If you can ID any of these, I would be interested to know their names

If you can ID any of these, I would be interested to know their names

I would really like a pinky purple like this

I would really like a pinky purple like this

This is rather sumptuous, don't you think?

This is rather sumptuous, don’t you think?

The same insect in this rather lovely variety in eating irises and roses in my garden

The same insect in this rather lovely variety in eating irises and roses in my garden

Do you like this?  I don't think I do, it would be very difficult to place

Do you like this? I don’t think I do, it would be very difficult to place

But the weekend was not wasted, how could a weekend in Florence be anything other than a very positive experience?

This was the view of the duomo while we drank our aperitivi! The sun hit the rose window for no more than 3 minutes

This was the view of the duomo while we drank our aperitivi! The sun hit the rose window for no more than 3 minutes

On Sunday we decided to visit one of the Medici villa gardens I had never visited; Poggio a Caiano, situated near Prato. When we arrived we discovered that several of the Medici villas including Poggio a Caiano had, the previous day been officially included as a UNESCO world heritage sites.

Villa Medici at Poggio a Caiano

Villa Medici at Poggio a Caiano

Part of the garden

Part of the garden

The villa itself is well preserved and the garden is delightful, although not as it would have looked when the Villa was built in 1485, it is one of the first revolutionary villas where the villa looked out over the countryside (even the dome of Santa Maria dei Fiore is visible from the windows) instead of being built around an internal courtyard.

If you are in the area the villa is well worth a visit and the small town has a couple of good restaurants too!


33 thoughts on “The Italian Iris Society Garden in Florence

  1. Hi Christina,
    Sorry your visit was a disappointment, but you got some lovely photos of irises. We have just had a couple of days in Rome and visited the botanic gardens there. Again, they didn’t seem big on weeding – maybe they just like the natural look! I liked the fact that you could wonder among the irises to photograph them though. We enjoyed the visit enormously and no doubt I will do a post on it at some point.

    • Unfortunately gardens aren’t considered high on the list of importance for most Italians that is one reason I am so pleased the Tuscan Medici villas have been declared World Heritage Sites, it raises awareness with locals to their importance. Did you visit Villa d’Este in Tivoli while you were in Rome, that is never a dissapointment.

  2. Such a shame when you had travelled a distance to see the iris. The few that you have shown in close up are beautiful, sorry, I don’t know any names. At least you were able to enjoy Florence so it wasn’t a wasted journey.

  3. So exciting to see those irises in Florence, despite the odd planting situation. I have never seen them grown anywhere except garden beds. I agree with your “sumptuous” description–that one is quite nice and that pinkish one would be right at home in your garden. Thanks for sharing your trip.

  4. How lovely to be in Florence. There were some beautiful Irises there, I love the ones you photographed. There are so many thousands of named Irises that it is always difficult identifying them.

  5. Too bad you didn’t find what your were hoping to find — but on the bright side, you were in Italy, at sunset, with a beverage. 🙂

  6. We went to Florence two years ago on a whistle stop visit on the way back to Rome and loved what we saw, no time for gardens though. The purple Iris is really fabulous, I wish I did know its name as I would certainly find a home for it here. I watched a Monty Don programme, where he seemed to be saying that employed gardeners in Italy were not as motivated as over here and as a consequence weeding was not a priority.

    • Gardening is not something anyone really wants to do here (not much better in the UK I know). I thougth that as this was the Iris Society they might have had volenteers who would do the work, but people don’t really do that kind of volenteering either.

  7. As you say, how can a weekend in Florence be a waste? You had the added bonus of a visit to a Medici villa, which looked wonderful. Can’t decide about the Iris display! Part of me thinks they looked quite charming grown in a “naturalised” way, like wild flowers, among the olive trees, but as you say, they didn’t appear at their best. However, some of the colours of each individual bloom were stunning, even the one you didn’t like! (Was the insect a ladybird larva? Not sure!) Doesn’t the Duomo look wonderful, especially in that light? Well captured! Is Florence a long journey for you? My geographical knowledge imagines it to be fairly near! (Sorry if I’m wrong! And if I’m bombarding you with questions!)

    • Florence is a couple of hours by car, so not far; we should go more often. The bug isn’t a ladybird larva, it is something that eats the pollen and maybe takes nectar (but I’m not sure about that), it eats into the roses and makes them ragged and ugly. this must have been one of the first visits I’ve made when there wasn’t scaffolding on some part of the Duomo; the entire baptistry was covered instead. Still good to know the buildings are being taken good care of. Not to many questions at all.

  8. That is a disappointment after your anticipation, Christina, and even irises that took your fancy were not identifiable 😦 I wonder what the judging was going to be based on – it would be interesting to know what irises ‘won’.

  9. A shame the iris garden was a disappointment. It’s especially annoying if you’ve made an extra trip, but at least you got to see Florence and those three minutes of sun on the rose window. Priceless!

  10. An Iris garden in Florence sounds so enticing – what a shame it did not meet expectations. Those Italians clearly do not appreciate what a draw such an asset could be! Florence is one of my dream destinations – I love Venice and the Italian Lakes, but have not made it to Rome or Florence yet.

    • You must vist Florence, there is so much to see; come out of season when there are fewer tourists although it is becoming crowded always now unlike a few years ago when out of season you could have the city to yourself. It is probably best visited in several trips or it can all become quite over-powering. Venice is my favourite city in the whole world!

  11. Bearded irises are one of the plants that have not done well in my garden when competing with others, so I am not surprised that they bow to the weeds there. It is a shame though!

    I would chose the “sumptuous” iris and I do like the last one… maybe with some Bronze Carex grass? or a smoke bush backdrop??

    Thanks for sharing your visit, Christina!

  12. What a different world you live in! Your day trip is a visit I can only dream of, love the pictures.
    Shame about the iris, but it will be interesting to see which varieties hold up and thrive under the neglect. I bet your drier weather really helps avoid some of the fungal diseases we get here, although lately the dry summers have kept things nice longer here too!

  13. Well having a visit to Florence can’t be bad, but what a sad display those irises were. I can’t imagine finding a happy home for that last one, but the orangey one that was being eaten looked rather fine. I’ve begun to dream of what irises I can add to the front garden.

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