How my passion was born

Hi­sto­ry of my iris hill be­gan as fol­lo­ws: Sin­ce 1995 I ha­ve been li­ving in a Pied­mon­te­se area, which – in my opi­nion – is one of the mo­st won­der­ful: Mon­fer­ra­to.

My iris hill in winter
My iris hill in win­ter

When I bought my hou­se and I mo­ved and li­ved in this fa­bu­lous sce­na­rio, I had few ti­me to de­vo­te to the sur­roun­ding ground, be­cau­se – in tho­se days – I was not short of work. I could main­tain the gar­den in front of my ho­me clean and ti­dy, but no­thing mo­re. So what ini­tial­ly was a well-ten­ded or­chard sur­roun­ded by a well-clea­ned wood gra­dual­ly be­ca­me a thorn-bush. I was ve­ry di­sap­poin­ted by such a ne­glect.

Li­ke ma­ny beau­ti­ful things, my iris hill was born from a ne­ga­ti­ve ex­pe­rien­ce and even from for­tui­tous cir­cum­stan­ces. In 2012 I was for­ced to clo­se my trans­la­tion so­le-pro­prie­tor­ship be­cau­se of a re­le­vant work re­duc­tion, and I had mo­re ti­me avai­la­ble. The­re­fo­re I de­ci­ded to bring se­ca­teurs, sic­kles and ra­kes, and I be­gan to clear the area sur­roun­ding my ho­me.

Picture of my wood before cleaning
In this pho­to, ta­ken from Goo­gle Maps, you can see my wood “be­fo­re treat­ment”

In 2010 I read in a gar­de­ning ma­ga­zi­ne (Vi­ta in cam­pa­gna) an ar­ti­cle, who spo­ke about an in­ter­na­tio­nal-le­vel hy­bri­di­zer, who li­ved few mi­les far from my vil­la­ge, i.e. in Ga­bia­no (pro­vin­ce of Ales­san­dria). It was May, but that year rain was in­ces­sant. It was not pos­si­ble to work in the gar­den fi­ve mi­nu­tes long wi­thout ha­ving to stop to shel­ter from the storm. Af­fec­ted by a tre­men­dous di­scou­ra­ge­ment, I jum­ped in my car and, wi­thout any pre­ven­ti­ve pho­ne call, I went to look for him. Un­for­tu­na­te­ly I did not found him, but I found the area, which at that ti­me was his “re­pre­sen­ta­ti­ve field”. I shall ne­ver for­get that ex­pe­rien­ce.

The sky was grey, drizz­le fell in­ces­san­tly, but – when I got out of my car, and I went near the fen­ce to ad­mi­re tho­se end­less ro­ws of flo­wers, one dif­fe­rent from the other – I was asto­ni­shed, and un­der­stood that a bound­less pas­sion was born in me for tho­se plan­ts, cal­led af­ter the Greek god­dess, per­so­ni­fi­ca­tion of rain­bow.

Tall bearded iris Before the Storm
The fir­st va­rie­ty I bought from Iri­de,
the tall bear­ded iris ‘Be­fo­re the Storm’

In Sep­tem­ber of the sa­me year, I ul­ti­ma­te­ly suc­cee­ded in get­ting in touch with the crea­tor of ma­ny such beau­ties: Au­gu­sto Bian­co of the com­pa­ny Iri­de, and I or­de­red my fir­st iris ‘Be­fo­re the Storm’. I was loo­king for an al­mo­st black iris, and this was the dar­ke­st in his ca­ta­lo­gue 2010. I bought 5 of them: one for me, one for my mum­my (a great iris lo­ver too), and 3 for a spe­cial friend.

Ob­viou­sly, on that oc­ca­sion, I had no op­por­tu­ni­ty to see blos­so­ming iris, be­cau­se the sea­son was over long ti­me ago, but Mi­ster Bian­co took me to see the other fields, he cul­ti­va­ted, (thou­sands upon thou­sands of plan­ts ar­ran­ged in neat ro­ws, which I al­rea­dy ima­gi­ned du­ring the flo­we­ring sea­son), and we agreed to meet next spring, when co­lours of all that beau­ties would ha­ve ex­plo­ded.

So, next year, to­ge­ther with my mum­my, we ca­me back to tho­se fields, and – with ma­ny dif­fi­cul­ties due to una­voi­da­ble ex­clu­sions – we suc­cee­ded in de­ci­ding which va­rie­ties to or­der. Star­ting from 2011 on­wards, we ha­ve al­ways or­de­red dif­fe­rent va­rie­ties, in or­der to be able to ex­chan­ge them bet­ween us, when they could ha­ve been di­vi­ded.

Flowering of species irises
Flo­we­ring of spe­cies iri­ses

Next spring, in May, when iri­ses from fir­st or­der blos­so­med, I was brea­thless. Seeing them in my gar­den in their full ma­gni­fi­cen­ce was the ful­fill­ment of a long-held dream of mi­ne, but bad luck (or bet­ter my inex­pe­rien­ce) struck me hard. Af­ter flo­we­ring it star­ted pou­ring do­wn rain for se­ve­ral days. One of the few, but fa­tal, ad­ver­si­ties of iri­ses is wa­ter sta­gna­tion. I pre­pa­red a rai­sed flo­wer­bed for them, but it was lo­ca­ted at the ba­se of a slo­pe, and the wa­ter stop­ped flo­wing near the flo­wer­bed. And as a re­sult, at the be­gin­ning of Ju­ne rhi­zo­mes of my gor­geous crea­tu­res be­gan to rot. What to do? I went wrong again, and de­ci­ded to dig up iris roo­tstocks and to put them in po­ts. The scor­ching sum­mer de­ci­ma­ted my be­lo­ved plan­ts by dry­ing them to death.

Slope of my iris hill
Slo­pe of my iris hill

It was sum­mer 2012, my work was con­si­de­ra­bly de­crea­sing (in fact I clo­sed my bu­si­ness at the end of the year), and I be­gan clea­ning out the wood sur­roun­ding my hou­se. This area is a steep slo­pe, and the­re­fo­re it is ve­ry sui­ta­ble for iri­ses for two rea­sons: at fir­st wa­ter sta­gna­tion can be avoi­ded, and then drops, fal­ling du­ring the rain, boun­ce away from plan­ts avoi­ding leaf con­ta­mi­na­tion by spo­res of pos­si­ble fun­gal di­sea­ses (but I would ha­ve found out that on­ly in a se­cond ti­me thanks to con­tact with real ex­perts).

So my iris hill (“La col­li­na del­le iris” in Ita­lian) has born. From that year on I ha­ve al­ways or­de­red new va­rie­ties from the com­pa­ny Iri­de, and ma­ny other iris nur­se­ries, I plan­ted the iri­ses or­de­red in pre­vious years by my mum­my, which in the mean­ti­me had re­pro­du­ced, and I ex­chan­ged them with friends, till I rea­ched ap­prox. 2200 clumps in­clu­ding mo­re than 1000 va­rie­ties.

Eve­ry va­rie­ty is pro­vi­ded with the la­bel with its na­me, but not all are re­gi­ste­red. So­me are hi­sto­ri­cal iri­ses (i.e. they ha­ve re­si­ded in my grand­mo­thers’ gar­dens for ma­ny years), the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of which is not su­re.

A glimpse of the Little Place dedicated to Dwarf Irises
A glimp­se of the “Dwarf Lit­tle Pla­ce”

In Au­gu­st 2018, it was ne­ces­sa­ry to rear­ran­ge plan­ts, in or­der to ma­ke room for new ones. This is the rea­son why this si­te was born. Th­ro­wing iris rhi­zo­mes away is again­st my prin­ci­ples. So­me are na­me­less, others are re­gi­ste­red va­rie­ties, but I think that so­me­thing, which is no lon­ger nee­ded by so­meo­ne, can be use­ful to ano­ther. At the sa­me ti­me, so­meo­ne el­se might ha­ve ex­cee­ding rhi­zo­mes, and the ex­chan­ge could be fa­vou­ra­ble for them both.

My iris hill in­clu­ded al­rea­dy the “Dwarfs Lit­tle Pla­ce” (in par­tial sha­de, be­cau­se the­se va­rie­ties well to­le­ra­te less sun­ny pla­ces), and now a new area was crea­ted: the “Hi­sto­ric Iris Val­ley”, whe­re all the­se va­rie­ties ha­ve been plan­ted. In Ja­nua­ry 2018 two hi­gh plan­ts we­re cut do­wn (in­deed they we­re ve­ry dan­ge­rous be­cau­se lo­ca­ted at road­si­de), in or­der to gi­ve light to this new plan­ting si­te, and on Au­gu­st all rhi­zo­mes ha­ve been dug out, di­vi­ded and plan­ted again in the val­ley de­di­ca­ted to them. Ma­ny other re­gi­ste­red va­rie­ties had to be re­po­si­tio­ned as well, and they ha­ve been ex­chan­ged among lo­vers of this flo­wer, which gi­ves us ever new co­lours and emo­tions.

In sub­se­quent years ex­chan­ges and pur­cha­ses went on with the aim to en­lar­ge the col­lec­tion of tho­se won­der­ful plan­ts.

When this si­te was laun­ched, in May 2018, my iris hill ac­co­mo­da­ted about 810 iris clumps in­clu­ding 340 dif­fe­rent va­rie­ties. Now 2200 clumps and 1000 va­rie­ties ha­ve been ex­cee­ded.

A bouquet of dwarf irises
A bou­quet of dwarf iri­ses

You will find mo­st of them in the Gal­le­ry (sor­ted by class, hy­bri­di­zer and year of re­gi­stra­tion): 676 are tall bear­ded iri­ses, 20 are bor­der bear­ded ones, in­ter­me­dia­te bear­ded iri­ses are ap­prox. six­ty, and stan­dard dwarf bear­ded ones al­mo­st 200; then the­re are ap­prox. 20 spe­cies iri­ses, 15 aril­breds, 10 mi­nia­tu­re tall and 10 mi­nia­tu­re dwarf bear­ded va­rie­ties.

The re­mai­ning ones are na­me­less iri­ses. I know that they ha­ve been re­gi­ste­red, but their la­bel got lo­st, or they ha­ve been in pos­ses­sion of my fa­mi­ly for ma­ny years wi­thout ever being able to iden­ti­fy them.

I was of­ten asked whe­ther it was pos­si­ble to pur­cha­se rhi­zo­mes in­stead of ex­chan­ging them. From March 2022 it is pos­si­ble not on­ly oc­ca­sio­nal­ly. Iri­ses will be de­li­ve­red with Plant Pas­sport com­ply­ing with re­gu­la­tions in for­ce, so they can be ex­por­ted to all coun­tries of the Eu­ro­pean Union.

If you are in­te­re­sted in ex­chan­ge or pur­cha­se, re­fer to pa­ge “Avai­la­ble iri­ses”, whe­re you will find the li­st of the va­rie­ties, which are rea­dy to lea­ve my iris hill to find a new pla­ce in your gar­den!!!