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Claire Austin at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2011
Claire Austin at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2011
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Claire Austin
Irises, peonies and perennials

Claire Austin to launch 13 new varieties of bearded irises at Chelsea 2011

Claire Austin returns to Chelsea this year with a vengeance! She is doubling the size of her exhibit; launching 13 new bearded irises; showing peonies at Chelsea for the first time in 5 years; and has Chelsea Gold in her sights.

The additional space on the exhibit will allow Claire to show both her specialist areas: hybrid herbaceous peonies and the spectacular tall bearded irises that won her a prestigious Chelsea Gold medal last year.

Since founding her nursery, Claire Austin Hardy Plants, in rural Shropshire 10 years ago, Claire has developed a great passion and expertise in irises and peonies. She is the author of ‘Iris – A Gardener’s Encyclopaedia’ and ‘Iris – the classic bearded varieties’, and has travelled the world in search of new and unusual varieties, which she trials extensively at the nursery to assess their suitability for the British climate. “Our trial beds are a pretty tough testing ground,” says Claire. “The irises are exposed to driving winds, temperatures down to -19C, really hard frosts and heavy rainfall. Only those that thrive in these conditions are accepted into our Iris Collection.”

Claire Austin’s ‘Iris Collection’ is a comprehensive catalogue of the 500 varieties of iris available to buy from the nursery by mail-order or online at www.claireaustin-hardyplants.co.uk .  The new season’s catalogue will be published in early April 2011 and copies are free of charge in the UK. Due to their very delicate buds, irises are sent out as bare root plants in September, October and March only.
Claire holds the National Collection of Bearded Irises and the National Collection of Hybrid Herbaceous Peonies, and will be opening the iris fields to iris enthusiasts for her annual Iris Open Day on 2, 3 and 4 June 2011.

Claire’s Iris Breeders
By far the majority of the iris varieties Claire has introduced over the years, have been bred by the world-renowned breeders of Oregon, USA, such as Cooley’s, Mid-America Growers, Keith Keppel, Aitkens and Schreiners, arguably the largest iris grower in the world with over 200 acres of iris fields and 10 acres of iris gardens.

However, Claire’s new iris introductions at Chelsea 2011 will also feature 3 iris varieties raised by Barry Blythe from Victoria in Australia. Barry has been breeding irises for over 50 years, and the progress in the range of colours and shapes found in modern iris is in no small way due to his work. Related to the British Prichard family (Campanula lactiflora ‘Prichard’s Variety’ etc), he is one of the world’s most knowledgeable and enthusiast iris breeders. His irises include ‘Louisa’s Song’, 'Spice Lord' and ‘Wearing Rubies’. For more about Barry’s irises and his nursery visit the article on Claire Austin’s website entitled: ‘Back from down under’ www.claireaustin-hardyplants.co.uk/blogarticle.php?id=12

Claire Austin
Irises, peonies and perennials

Claire Austin’s Chelsea 2011 Introductions: Tall bearded irises
Iris 'Cranberry Sauce': A fabulous iris with broad flowers, which are a sultry blend of claret and violet with big, ginger beards and elegantly waved petals. It produces lots of flowers, which means it blooms for ages. Sweetly scented. Grows to 94 cm. £14.40

Iris ‘Discovered Treasure’: A romantic free-flowering variety, the flowers have soft pink standards, gently flushed with violet and violet falls that are enhanced by contrasting bright orange beards. Simply lovely! It has a sweet fragrance. Grows to 97cm. £17.00

Iris ‘Foreign Legion’: A handsome variety with velvety burgundy maroon falls that pale towards the edges and peach standards, which are stained with burgundy from the bottom upwards. It has big vibrant orange beards. Sweetly scented. Grows to around 99cm. £15.00

Iris ‘Game Plan’
This stunning iris produces smooth golden honey flowers and rich, burnt orange beards. Yummy! Grows to 93cm. £15.00

Iris 'Guatemala' : A distinct iris, the flowers have bluish white standards and falls. The falls are stained from the top with toffee, and have unusual burnt umber beards. Much admired in our iris field last year. Heavily scented. Grows to 99cm. £15.50 Iris ‘Italian Velvet’ : A dramatic variety with richly coloured flowers. It has bright purple standards and velvety, maroon falls that are gently ruffled around the edges. It has an interesting fragrance. Grows to 91cm. £16.80

Iris ‘Louisa’s Song’: This pretty variety has large, frilly flowers with lilac-violet standards and rosy purple falls that are rimmed with lilac. It has contrasting burnt orange beards. The flowers are carried on strong stems and produces lots of buds. Despite the size of the flowers they are not damage during rain. Scented. An Australian variety. Grows to 106cm. £35.00

Iris ‘Rio Rojo’: This simply gorgeous tall bearded iris produces smooth, rich claret red flowers with gently ruffled edges, and purple beards and lots of flower buds. Grows to 93cm. £30.00

Iris 'Spice Lord' : A lovely variety with shiny brown standards and white falls that are broadly edged with chocolate brown, the colour is banded and stippled along the edges. It is heavily scented. An Australian variety. Grows to 90cm. £14.40
Iris ‘Wearing Rubies’: A neatly ruffled flower with richly coloured flowers that have purple-pink standards and rich burgundy falls like plush velvet. The beards are burnt orange. Another wonderful Australian variety. Grows to 94cm. £16.80
ALSO: ‘Afternoon in Rio’ (not pictured): This lacy violet-purple flower has a light band of bronze around the petal edges and a white central zone on the falls, drawing the eye into the flower. Grows to 91cm. £16.80
‘Autumn Riesling’ (not pictured): A nicely ruffled glowing orange variety with hints of apricot. Grows to 102cm. £16.80
‘Midnight Treat’ (not pictured): Ruffled, purple standards and velvety, purple-black falls that are edged with purple make this dramatic flower quite irresistible. Grows to 91cm. £12.00