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January 29, 2011

HANASHOBU - The Art of Growing and Displaying Japanese Iris


THE FIRST BULLETIN ON HANASHOBU, PUBLISHED BY THE JAPAN IRIS SOCIETY IN 1931.

In Japan, Iris culture is like many things the Japanese practice, it's an art.  I seem to cover many of the cultural techniques seen in Japan, but for whatever reason, I have not shared my discoveries about the Japane Iris, Iris ensata. The culture of which the Japanese call HANASHOBU.  These are beautiful Iris that you too can grow ( if you can find them), for they are easier than many of the bearded iris, and they have a blooming period in mid summer, when you really need a boost.

 Thanks to the Japan Iris Society, there are more ways to grow these than just in the garden for many Japanese enthusiasts grow them carefully tended in pots. The writings of Hiroshi Shimzu, of the Japan Iris Society is most influencial, and I encourage you to visit their site, and learn more about these elegant plants.


A HANSHOBU DISPLAY FROM 1900



IN THE EDO PERIOD, HANASHOBU DISPLAYS WERE VERY POPULAR AS SEEN IN THIS WOOD BLOCK PRINT CIRCA 1700



If you are a new gardener, be careful when discussing such things as iris, for one cannot generalize and say accurately something like "my favorite flower is iris" for there are many, many species, and each are unique and different. For this post, let's talk about Japanese iris, or Iris ensata, a summer blooming iris that is easy to grow, yet surprisingly rare in American gardens. I adore all iris, and my favorite are Siberian Iris Iris siberica, because not only do get bigger and better each year, they are easy to divide and have few, if any pests

WILD FORMS OF IRIS ENSATA


Which has me wondering about Japanese Iris, or Iris ensata, which I seem to forget about until I see them in other gardens. I had my Japanese Iris craze back in the late 1980's, when I collected many cultivars and even had an entire bed dedicated to just growing them, and my history with these elegant Iris goes back to my high school years, when my summer job as a gardener at a private estate required my to maintain a collection, which were planted in circular individual beds along a meandering alpine stream ( a Fletcher Steele garden). Lately, while cruising the Internet for something different, I was reminded about these beautiful Iris when I found a Japanese Iris Society site in Japan.



JAPANESE IRIS CULTIVATED IN BONSAI POTS AT AN IRIS SHOW IN TOKYO


What makes Japanese Iris so important for many garden designers, is first, their blooming period, which is later than many garden iris, early July. Second, their foliage always looks fine. Nice a vertical with a graceful flow, unlike German Bearded Iris or any with a large rhizome, whose foliage deteriorates as summer progresses, like Siberian Iris, the Japanese Iris always looks great in the garden, even when it isn't blooming.


SINGLE POTS OF IRIS ENSATA GROW TO PERFECTION AT A HANSHOBU DISPLAY IN JAPAN.
I THINK I MIGHT TRY GROWING SOME IN POTS THIS YEAR



A CONTEMPORARY PLANTING IN A NATURAL STYLE, LIKE MANY IRIS, THEY LOOK BEST WHEN GROWN IN LARGE NUMBERS

Japanes Iris look best is large drifts, but they also look good when isolated in a bed of their own. As I mentioned above, they can be treated like specimen plants, with 24 inch circular beds in a lawn, near a water feature such as a stream or a pond, where each disc bed could contain one Iris plant. These are the Iris you see painted on Japanese screens or in wood block prints in Japan, their petals are graceful and elegant, and their blossoms are larger than the Bearded Iris.


A PRETTY HANSHOBU VARIETY FROM JAPAN CALLED A 'HIGO' TYPE

1 comment :

  1. I still remember my first visit to a Japanese garden in Japan. Ritsurin-koen in Takamatsu on Shikoku. The one image that has stayed with me was the swath of purple iris growing bare root over river rocks, with just a trickle of water flowing through.

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