Everything you need to know about the Iris Garden in Florence
You can only admire its full beauty from 25 April to 20 May
A unique place in the world is located in Florence, the Iris Garden, near Piazzale Michelangelo, is the only botanical garden dedicated to this variety in Europe. It was created with the aim of hosting an annual international competition for the best varieties of iris, the "Florence Prize", first launched in 1954 on the initiative of Flaminia Specht and Nita Stross Radicati, members of the Società Amici dei Fiori and passionate hybridisers.
Located between the corner of Viale dei Colli and Piazzale Michelangelo in the Podere dei Bastioni, the Iris Garden covers an area of about two and a half hectares and offers a spectacular view of the city and the famous Florentine square.
Their special interest made it possible to set up the event in Florence, considered its natural home because of the city's long-standing link with this flower throughout history, so much so that the city's emblem includes a red iris (and not a lily as is mistakenly believed).
The Garden, originally designed by the architect G. Zetti and inaugurated in May 1957, had in the meantime been enriched by donations from many foreign growers and also by a vast collection of historical irises from the Presby Memorial Garden in Montclair (New Jersey, USA). In 1967, a pond was built in the lower area to accommodate Japanese and Louisiana irises in the surrounding marshy ground.
The Garden was set up on hilly land that had previously been cultivated, so most of the tall trees are olive trees. Other traditional Tuscan plants have been used in the preparation phase, including cypresses, Judas trees (Cercis siliquastrum L.), strawberry trees (Arbutus unedo L.), laurels (Laurus nobilis L.) and some varieties of maples. In the decoration of the garden, mainly rose bushes and shrubs were used to emphasise the paths and driveways. But it is the iris plants in their variety of shapes and colours that almost completely cover the garden ground and when in full bloom turn it into a wonderfully colourful carpet.
The vast majority are tall Irises (almost 3000), but there are also intermediate, border and dwarf Irises. There are also Iris Sibirica, Spuria, Californica and, in and around the pond, Iris Louisiana, Pseudoacorus and the Japanese Kaempferi. The species of bearded and unbearded Irises typical of our regions are Iris pallida Lam., Iris germanica L., Iris florentina L., Iris setosa, Iris unguicolaris, Iris ochroleuca L.
There are numerous collections and collections of ancient and historic irises in the garden, including the collection of American Dykes Medals from 1927 to the present day, some ancient irises from the collection of the Presby Memorial Garden in Montclair (New Jersey, USA), historic irises from the Prague Botanical Garden, the collection of plants that won first and second prizes in the International Iris Competition from 1957 to the present day and a selection of all the plants that have taken part in the Competition, divided by year, from the first Competition to the present day.