Why grow median and dwarf irises?

By Margie Habraken
on December 11, 2017

Why grow median and dwarf irises?

Medians are less prone to wind damage and are easier to display in vases. They will provide a spring feature amongst shrubs and mixed perennial gardens.

Dwarf irises are excellent edge plants and require little maintenance. They are very resilient, handle dry summers well and are easy to move around the garden when clumps increase in size.

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Life cycle of an iris plant – or why we don’t pick during flowering!

By Margie Habraken
on November 14, 2017

Life cycle of an iris plant – or why we don’t pick during flowering!

Like all plants, irises grow and change throughout their life cycle.  In an attempt to explain an iris life cycle, I will hopefully shed some light on why you have not received your irises yet if you have recently ordered form us.

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Iris as cut flowers

By Margie Habraken
on October 17, 2017

Iris as cut flowers

Whilst we love the look of our iris in the garden, they make spectacular cut flowers in a vase inside and keep for up to 2 weeks.  Here a few handy tips to ensure you get the most out of your indoor iris displays.

  • Keep an eye on iris flowers in your garden, and pick them just as the top flower is starting to unfurl. It’s best to cut them using sharp secateurs or a knife in the early morning or evening,
  • Some people advise recutting your iris at an angle once they are inside, either under a running tap or underwater in a bucket.
  • Display your iris out of direct sunlight and breezes. Change the water every 3 days or when it becomes murky and recut the stems if necessary.  Pinch off the wilted flowers as blooms emerge lower down the stem. 
  • Occasionally an iris will drip a sap-like substance – place them on a non-porous surface just to be on the safe side.

For some interesting ideas on how to display your iris, google ikebana and iris.  Ikebana is a Japanese form of flower arranging which turns cut flowers and foliage into works of art.  Whatever your displays, enjoy your iris.

Intoxicating iris

By Margie Habraken
on September 30, 2017

Intoxicating iris

Here at Sunshine Iris Nursery we have been pleasantly surprised to discover a relationship between two of our favourite pastimes – working with our beloved iris and sharing an evening tipple once that work is done for the day.

A little known by product of the iris is orris root.  This comes from the rhizomes of three types of irises,  Iris germanica (German iris), Iris pallida and a variety known as Iris florentina , all grown commercially for their orris root. 

Orris root has a scent that resembles violets and is used to develop this perfume.  It must be dried for at least three years and ground into a powder.  It is then steam distilled to obtain the essential oil, sometimes known as orris butter. 

But orris root is not only added to perfumes and cosmetics – you may also find it in some types of gin – including our favourite Bombay Sapphire!  Orris root is said to have lots of health benefits – not yet scientifically proven though.

Bombay Gin Bottle

So next time you are enjoying your evening gin and tonic – raise your glass to the beautiful iris! (and remember – drink responsibly!)

The Secrets of Irises

By Margie Habraken
on September 07, 2017

Ancient iris depiction

Not just a beautiful flower...

The word Iris comes from the Greek language meaning rainbow.  Some believe that irises are the rainbow flowers because of the amazing variety of colours they exhibit.  But to the ancient Greeks, Iris was also a Greek goddess who relayed messages from the underworld to the gods.  She used rainbows to travel to the heavens to deliver her messages and would provide an escort to heaven for the dearly departed.  The ancients Greeks would often plant iris on the graves of their loved ones to signal to the goddess Iris that they were ready for the journey to the heavens.

Irises are exceptional in other cultures around the world.  Japanese believe the plants have purifying qualities and wear images of iris on their kimonos to ward off evil.  In Chinese culture, irises are often depicted in drawings, with the fluttering of the iris flowers likened to butterflies.  The iris flower is also the emblem of France and the inspiration for the Fleur-de-lis, a symbol from the French monarchy depicted on many coats of arms and buildings.  

Whatever the history of iris, we love them for their unique efflorescence and astonishing ‘rainbow’ of colours.

Add a bit of quirky to your iris

By Margie Habraken
on August 19, 2017

Add a bit of quirky to your iris

Following on from our last blog about how wonderful iris in pots can look, how about giving your garden a touch of the quirky?

Consider using different and unusual containers to plant out your iris.  There’s a huge variety of things you can use, limited only by your imagination.  Many ideas also reuse containers that would otherwise go to landfill – a win-win all round!  Here’s a few suggestions –

  • Plant out your iris in an old wheelbarrow – the older the better. And so easy to move to another part of the garden for that burst of colour once they are flowering.
  • For a more permanent display, paint some old tyres in bold colours. Fill with good potting soil and create an abstract circular display.
  • Old watering cans make great rustic display containers for your iris.
  • In the garden at Sunshine Iris we have used an old washbasin to create a great feature in the garden. An old bath would give an even larger display.
  • Old baskets and wooden crates make perfect planters. Just line them with some plastic first and make a few drainage holes in the bottom before adding your potting mix.
  • Colourful plastic tubs or buckets also make a bright display. Just drill some holes in the base first.

Happy planting and feel free to share a photo of your quirky iris on our Facebook page when they flower.

Twins take on Sunshine Iris Nursery

By Elissa Strong
on August 11, 2017

Twins take on Sunshine Iris Nursery

We are excited to announce a change of ownership at Sunshine Iris Nursery.  Elissa has decided to focus on more academic interests and has passed the garden fork over to Mandy’s twin sister, Margie to join the iris business.

The twins have of course always maintained a close relationship and Margie is looking forward to working on the iris farm and managing the sales and accounts.  Although not recently from a farming background, she is hoping her teaching skills will be of assistance in the nursery business.  Margie is quickly learning about everything iris, and is looking forward to meeting lots of our customers who may be around when the nursery is open in October.

Elissa will continue to maintain an interest in Sunshine Iris Nursery, managing our online presence and of course, being our principle consultant in the agronomy side of growing iris.

Growing irises in containers

By Margie Habraken
on June 19, 2017

Growing irises in containers

As some of us downsize and others move into their first apartment – here’s a way to take your garden with you.  What about a blast of colour on your balcony or a welcoming container of potted iris at your front door?  Iris do very well in containers and now is a great time to plant up a pot or two.

If you have tall bearded iris, you need a pot at least 30cm in size – larger if you want to pack a bit of colour in there.   Choose a good quality potting mix and put your pots in an open sunny position where they will get some winter cold.  Plants in containers need to be watered a little more often, but be careful not to overwater. 

Irises in pots will also require a little more attention than those in the garden.  It is best to dig them up and divide each year after flowering in December or January.  This is also a good time to add some all-purpose fertiliser or Seasol.

Daylilies also do well in pots – a sunny aspect will bring out their best colours, particularly if it is a light coloured daylily.

Once the flowers start to appear, move your pot to the desired position, and wait for the compliments!

Anatomy of a bearded iris

By Margie Habraken
on May 23, 2017

Anatomy of a bearded iris

When describing iris, we often talk about ‘falls’, ‘standards’ and ‘beards’.  Here is a brief explanation of these terms and a few more.

Falls are the lower three petals of the flower.  They can be adorned with veining, lines or dots and are usually narrower at the top, expanding gracefully downward.

Standards refer to the upper three petals of the flower.  They are often markedly different to the falls and ‘stand’ upright.


Anatomy of an iris

The spathe is found below the petals.  It has a papery covering around the emerging buds, and protects the ovary, turning brown as it develops.

The beard is the fluffy ‘caterpillar’ at the top of the falls, giving bearded iris their name.  They often provide a startling colour contrast to the petals of the iris.

A rhizome is a storage part consisting of a more or less horizontal underground section of the plant from which roots grow.  They are potato-like and should be planted just beneath the surface.

If you are interested, the American Iris Society has an article about the colour terms used when describing tall bearded iris – check it out here

Landscaping With Iris

By Mandy Strong
on May 08, 2017

Landscaping With Iris

Recently one of our customers has mentioned she will be using her iris purchases to under plant roses. What a great idea!

Although some sources recommend keeping the beds under roses clear, others indicate there may be some good reasons to use iris together with other perennials. Underplanting, and indeed all mixed plantings should be chosen with care, taking into account the plant's water, nutrient and light requirements.

By choosing plants with similar requirements, caring for the beds becomes simpler. Iris, like roses, requires full sun, are drought tolerant, prefer good drainage and have few fertiliser requirements. They are a great choice for under roses, and with the wide variety of colours available, many colour combinations are possible.

Perhaps the best iris to choose are the dwarf varieties as many are rebloomers which will flower in autumn and spring, complementing your roses.  They will readily multiply forming a great display and are shallow rooted, offering less competition for water and nutrients from the deeper rooted roses.

Your iris plants will also attract pollinators and may control pests – a true companion plant for your roses!

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Tall bearded iris

  • Gypsy Belle - Tall Bearded Iris
    Gypsy Belle - Tall Bearded Iris
  • Persian Berry - Tall Bearded Iris
    Persian Berry - Tall Bearded Iris
  • French Gown - Tall Bearded Iris
    French Gown - Tall Bearded Iris
  • Alpenview - Tall Bearded Iris
    Alpenview - Tall Bearded Iris
  • Swerti - Tall Bearded Iris
    Swerti - Tall Bearded Iris
  • Gratuity - Tall Bearded Iris
    Gratuity - Tall Bearded Iris

Can we help you?

Looking for more information or a certain plant?  Want to buy wholesale?  Can't decide which iris?  Contact Mandy on 0429 857 085 or email us

From the Blog

Planting iris for impact

Planting iris for impact

March 11, 2019

I was fortunate enough to visit some open gardens last spring around the Tumut area, and was very impressed with the thought that went into the layout of the gardens and choices of plants. 

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Pick Pack Post - by Kerry Anderson

Pick Pack Post - by Kerry Anderson

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Usually it is the children that are encouraged to take on the family business, but in the case of Sunshine Iris Nursery near Lockhart in New South Wales, it was the opposite. What started as a logical step into the business world for agronomist trained Elissa Strong became problematic when she went back to study in 2017 leaving her mother Mandy to pick pack and post.

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