Darley Dale White Tall Bearded Iris grown in a 'drift'

Darley Dale – Shows Effects of Block Planting and Benefits of Clear Clean Colours

This is a copy of the Spring/Summer Update 2023. If you like this please send your gardening friends this link and encourage them to subscribe.



Welcome to our Spring/Summer Update 2023.

After a long cold Spring ground conditions have started to improve at last. Here in the north it is only during the last ten days that the weather has warmed up, although the nights are still relatively cold 5/6 C. Importantly, the ground has started to dry out and in some parts of the country I know rainfall has been scarce.

2023 Deliveries

We plan to resume our monthly deliveries in 2023; these are made at the end of each month. The next batch of plants goes out on May 30th/31st, and thereafter monthly until the end of October. We did not send irises out at the end of April as planned because our plants had not put on sufficient growth in the Polytunnels; ground conditions around the country were also unsuitable. This proved a sensible move and was popular with our customers.

New Prices

After holding prices for the last couple of years prices were increased in Spring 2023. To help offset this we have introduced a new discount structure to incentivise bulk purchases. Response to date from customers has been very positive. The new prices are as follows:

1-2  flowers  £16.50 / 3-5 £16.00 / 6-8 £15.50 / 9+ £14.75


After some difficulties with Royal Mail strikes last year, we are staying with our existing provider. Royal Mail can cope with our monthly delivery schedule, the staff at the local office are first rate, and,  unlike many other couriers,  they do not need a regular weekly order commitment. There are two tariffs available:

Standard £7.75 – First Class Small Parcel

Next Day £14.20 (this is applied automatically to all larger orders)

There are small variations for larger quantities.


Poor weather

Our plants struggled to put on any serious growth in March/April this year. Cold night time temperatures were the main problem. They have finally got going in the last three weeks.

New Stock

We have been potting up much of the stock required for 2024, but recognise that due to the nursery move, there may be disruption to supplies of some varieties in 2024/2025. We are working to minimise the impact and plan to introduce several new varieties in 2024.

Growing in 9cm Pots

We continue to keep this policy under review. Unlike many other suppliers who grow a slightly larger plant, we believe this strategy is the right one. Our irises require a twelve month period of establishment before they flower. The thinking behind this is that in the long term our plants do better provided they have a good start. Consequently we believe that this is a small price to pay for a plant that should last for ten/fifteen years plus, and probably much longer still.

There is always a trade off between the slower start which we recommend and running the risk of supplying a larger plant that flowers too early. The problem is that a weakened plant takes two/three years to recover, and as we know from regular feedback from customers who have bought these irises, many simply do not make it.


I want to offer our existing subscribers to the Spring/Summer 2023 Update the first opportunity to purchase our new introduction, Century Pink. This is the Tall Bearded Iris selected by the British Iris Society to celebrate its Centenary in 2022. Please note that stocks are limited and the iris is not yet available to buy from our website. If you wish to purchase this exclusive iris, please email me: Please switch on JavaScript to see our email address and refer to Subscriber Offer. The price is £16.50 per plant and bulk purchases will be subject to discounts as per the pricing model shown earlier in the Update. Orders will be taken on a first come, first serve basis.

Century Pink One of Pour award Winning Bearded Irises

Century Pink 2022


Please send us comments and photos of irises you have purchased from the English Iris Company. Mail to: Please switch on JavaScript to see our email address. The best will be displayed on our website and proper attribution given. I am keen to encourage a dialogue with customers who buy our irises and am happy to offer the photographer with the best story and image six complimentary irises of their choosing.

New Purple Seedling One of Our Award Winning Bearded Irises

New Purple Seedling 2022


I am often asked what makes our Award Winning Irises special and why they are different from the vast majority of irises you can buy today. The answer is not entirely straightforward:

(i) Pedigree – they come from Award Winning stock hybridised by my late father, Bryan Dodsworth, twelve times British Dykes Medal Winner (the top accolade for iris hybridisers) . He won this coveted British Dykes Medal  no less than twelve times. No one previously had won this prestigious iris hybridiser’s award more than four times in its ninety plus year history; and we have all the irises.

Bryan Dodsworth

Bryan Dodsworth

During his life as a hybridiser my father produced in excess of 40,000 iris seedlings, yet registered less than 55 varieties; he was rigorous in his plant selection and set an incredibly high bar.  As a result the irises he did register had to be exceptional and this is why we are able to supply you with exclusive Award Winning top of the range Bearded Irises.

(ii) Perfect Flowers – The flower shape has to be perfect, with flowers of a size that are in proportion to the stem height; with ‘standards’ (the three vertical petals) and ‘falls’ ( the three horizontal petals) in balance. It is essential that the flowers have sufficient substance in the petals to withstand the Nottinghamshire wind and rain.

So often irises sold with flowers that are too large for the length of the stem and the petals lack substance. This makes them top-heavy and unsuited to UK growing conditions. This is particularly true of some of the varieties registered abroad and made available for the UK market.

Hen Harrier One of Our award Winning Bearded Irises

Hen Harrier 2022 – Perfect Flower Shape and Substance in the petals

(iii) Great Branching – The flowers are carried on branches that are spaced evenly along the stem. This is really important because proper branching provides a structure and balance to the plant, and this allows you to enjoy and admire individual blooms. [So many modern irises have defective or non-existent branching, and many well-known modern iris hybridisers simply ignore this].

Great branching allows you to enjoy and preserve the definition of the iris flower when viewed from any distance.

RHS Photography Gold Medal (Annabel Jane Group) Bearded Iris -Polina Plotnikova. An example of great branching.

Annabel Jane – Great Branching with blooms flowering away from the stem

(iv) Clear Clean Colours – My father’s vision of the perfect iris requires everything to be in balance. His idea of perfection was personified in the shape of an iris flower itself, with a perfectly shaped flower with ‘standards’ and ‘falls’ in harmony.

Red Pike – Clear Clean Colours

In his view nothing destroys the sense of balance more than a change of colour. This is the reason why my father’s  irises are almost exclusively ‘selfs’ (irises of the same colour) or ‘bi-tones (irises of different shades of the same colour).

This is in marked contrast to collections of irises offered by other suppliers and iris nurseries, another distinguishing factor of our Bearded Iris Collection.


In our website we highlight the versatility of our irises by grouping them into three colour categories: ‘Cools’, ‘Hots’ and ‘Softs’. Having irises of a single colour makes it much easier to create your own colour palette. We have many artists and photographers amongst our gardening customers who appreciate and remark on this; they also appreciate fully the much improved flower definition that results from great branching.

Bearded Irises at Marshgate - different colour combinations

Mixing ‘Cool’ colours with ‘Softs’ – Skye Blue/Darley Dale and Charnwood Delight


Visit the website and choose irises from each category of  ‘Cools’ or ‘Hots’ to enjoy a great display. Things get more interesting when you add the ‘Softs’ to the mix. These are the special category and warrant pride of place in your iris collection and like the other two groups they can be grown together. Remember that, ‘Softs’ (largely pinks/lavenders/pale yellows) have a further important added benefit that allows them to be planted with great effect with either of the other two colour groups.

Try mixing ‘whites’ (Cool group) with ‘pinks’ or ‘pale yellows’; blues (cool group) with pale yellows or pinks. Alternatively, plant Oranges/Magenta/Reds (hot group) with pinks and you will be surprised at the results. If you want to push the boat out and break the rules, try  ‘oranges’ (William of Orange) with deep blue (Wharfedale) and the effect is stunning.

William of Orange Tall Bearded Iris

‘Hots’- William of Orange. Mix with Wharfedale below

Wharfedale – Effective contrast with the orange (above)

Creating you own colour palette is so much easier and more effective when you have irises that are largely of a single colour.

Bearded Irises - Note Wide Colour Range and Clear Clean Colours

Create Your Own Colour Palette – The Colours of the Rainbow


Barry Emmerson

Barry Emmerson

I want to pay tribute to my great friend Barry Emmerson who was mentored by my late father for nearly twenty years before he died in 2009.  Barry’s has been working with me since and under his guidance I have learned to understand and appreciate the importance of my father’s iris collection. His help and advice has been critical in saving my father’s iris legacy,  and we were involved together in setting up the English Iris Company.

Barry died suddenly in April this year. Without question he was the pre-eminent British hybridiser of Tall Bearded Irises of his generation and was awarded the coveted Dykes Medal in 2014 for his iris ‘Iceni Sunset’.

Contemporary Bearded Iris - Iceni Sunset

Iceni Sunset- Barry Emmerson’s first Dykes Medal

He was a former British Iris Society President, leading Iris Judge; his hybridising knowledge and experience is a great loss to the iris world. Barry’s  family are considering how best to preserve his iris collection, and I hope to be able to play some small part in this.


Doddington – Plans are in hand to plant up the new iris bed at Doddington Hall in the recently restored kitchen garden. We expect this work to be completed in July 2023. This new bed will be spectacular in years to come and will include a full range of my father’s irises, including some that are extremely rare and have never been seen before.

Our Bearded Irises at Doddington

The Kitchen Garden at Doddington. The location for our new Iris Bed


Partner Garden Abercamlais

Visit Abercamlais near Brecon in Powys to see our Irises in 2023

Two new beds were planted at Abercamlais near Brecon, Powys, in Autumn 2022. These are in addition to the other four established beds. This will provide a stunning display in May/June this year. Please see details of Abercamlais Garden Open Days in 2023.

Bearded Irises at Abercamlais

Enjoy Irises in Walled Garden at Abercamlais 2023


Bearded Irises as Cut Flowers

Cut Flower Display with Darley Dale Iris

We continue to have much interest from Flowers From the Farm members, a group of committed British Cut Flower Growers who are keen to use our irises.

We are working with three Cut Flower Growers, one in the south of England, one in Scotland and one in Nottinghamshire close to my father’s former iris garden. We expect to be able to provide links in 2024 for our customers to send our irises as Cut Flowers to friends. We see this as a further important way to demonstrate the versatility of our irises as Cut Flowers and make them available to a new market. We see this. as an important way to raise the profile of our British Irises.

We will keep you posted as this exciting project develops.


Sending Irises as presents is something we are more than happy to do. This is popular with customers and the feedback we receive from both donor and recipient is always positive. Please remember us when you are struggling to find that elusive gift for a gardening relative or friend, but please note that our monthly iris delivery means we cannot send irises to arrive for a particular day/event during the month. If key dates are important, we suggest you try the Gift Voucher option (below).

Sending Iris Gift Vouchers is a good alternative and works throughout the year. Cards are sent out quickly to meet special dates/anniversaries etc. We can add a personal message and all vouchers are sent out by First Class Mail.


The long cold Spring has left many irises looking a little ‘hang dog’ and they have struggled with lack of rain for the last month. The sub-zero temperatures at night have hit the new leaf growth hard. In some cases plants have lost the vibrant green sheen that you associate with irises which explode in Spring with their characteristic exuberant leaf growth, prior to forming flower spikes.

This will do your plants no long-term harm, but it may make sense to boost the feed just to give them a shot in the arm (see later comments).

Plant Hygiene

A reminder that plant hygiene with irises is important. although the foliage is abundant it is never too late to do some general tidying up. Remove all old leaves from the base of the rhizome, cut out any discoloured leaves and look out for and remove any overwintered slugs, particularly the small black ones. This will keep your plants healthy.

Check rhizomes and make sure they look strong and healthy, cut out any rotten/’spongey’ rhizomes. Watch for any signs that leaves are ‘floppy’ or pale yellow in colour – this is usually evidence of rot. This needs to be dealt with immediately by cutting out the affected area and applying ‘Vitax’ or equivalent sulphur in powdered form.


If slugs are evident (and remember you may not be aware that they are) use an organic product ‘Ferrimax’ approved by RHS or ‘Sluxx’, the product we use. Check websites for availability.


I know it is always easy to overlook feeding your irises.

You should apply  a handful of bonemeal each Spring and Autumn, but remember that bonemeal will take approx. six weeks to work. If you have missed the the Spring feed it is not too late to apply a generous drench  of liquid seaweed every ten days for the next six weeks, ‘Maxicrop original’, or equivalent will do the business. Then, make sure that they get a good Autumn bone meal feed.

DO NOT use ‘Growmore’ or equivalent. Nitrogen will only encourage leaf growth and will contribute to iris rot.


It’s never too late to check the iris beds and remove any perennial weeds; particular care will be needed now that the plants are in flower or throwing up new flower spikes, but its still worth doing if you are careful.

Please see our full guide for further information about planting and caring for your irises.


Despite increasing pressures on family finances, orders are holding up well this year. We offer a distinctive high quality product, with a range that is not available elsewhere in the market place and continue to enjoy much positive feedback from our customers. Thank you so much to those who have written business reviews. This is really important and helps our search ranking.

Our Update is an important way to keep in touch with customers, past and present, and iris lovers generally. Our support base is growing steadily each month, so please mention us to your gardening friends and encourage them to join. Word of mouth referrals continue to be the most valuable source of publicity, and if you like the Update, please encourage them to our website and/or subscribe to the Newsletter. Simply send them the link: https://www.englishiriscompany.com.You can find the link to subscribe to the Newsletter at the bottom of the home page, and if you would like to contribute a business review, please log into Google and press the link https://tinyurl.com/54eshvft


Bearded irises at Marshgate

Marshgate 2022 – something to gladden the heart!


I hope you have enjoyed our Spring/Summer 2023 Update.

This an exciting time of the year for iris growers all over the country. My irises are just beginning to flower here in the north and I know that those of you who live further south have been enjoying them for several weeks now.

Enjoy your gardening and please tell your gardening friends about us. I will be in contact again in the Autumn.

Simon Dodsworth

Email: Please switch on JavaScript to see our email address
Phone: +44(0)7789 670 299

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