The world’s most beautiful iris is called Spirit Rider. It won first prize in the International Iris Competition in Florence, Italy. The iris has been the symbol of Florence for centuries.
Only Tall Bearded Irises and Border Bearded Irises can compete. Anyone can enter the competition, but it takes three years for the plants to be judged.
“Anyone who hybridizes their own plants can participate, and then in October, they send the plants in September, and in October I plant them all the same day, as much as possible with equal status, let’s say, and then we follow them for three years, the third year that they’re in the garden they’re judged,” said Anne Barbetti, the director of the International Iris Competition.
The competition is organized by the Italian Iris Society and has been going since 1954.
The irises are planted out in the Florence Iris Garden, which opens to the public in May, just for one month, so visitors can view the competition entries. The garden boasts more than 8,000 irises.
More than 100 entries were received for this year’s competition, but just 52 were eligible to be judged.
The top Iris this year was created by Schreiner’s Iris Gardens in Salem, Oregon.
Creating a red iris is one of the great goals for hybridizers. They are extremely rare. There is even a special red iris prize.
“It is very difficult to find the red colour in an iris. Until now hybridizers have been insistently looking for it, also because the red iris is the symbol of Florence, and this is also the reason why there is this prize, the Red Iris Prize. Actually (the iris) is never red, it is a color that is closer to the color of rust, is closer to purple, and so we can say that this is more a symbolic thing than a practical one,” said Laura Bassino Rulent, member of the jury.
The International Iris Competition ran from May 8 to 13, 2017. The gardens are open from April 25 to May 20.