June 11, 2023

Ayame (iris) flowers: Ofuna Flower Center (Kamakura)

Ayame (iris) flowers: Ofuna Flower Center (Kamakura)

The iris (Hana-shoubu, ayame) is a classical garden plant in Japan, the variety of which was improved mainly during the Edo period ((1603-1868) and there are currently more than 5,000 varieties.

They sprout from around May and grow to a height of 50 cm to 1 m, producing delicate and ephemeral flowers of white, blue, purple, spotted and yellow.

Flowers can be three-petalled, six-petalled or double-petalled and the sword-shaped  leaves are narrow and raised with distinct veins.

In Japanese horticulture, there are four main types according to where the variety was bred, which are called Edo, Ise, Higo, Nagai Kosei families. Furthermore, the hybrids of these families, the yellow-flowered varieties bred through interspecific crosses, and varieties bred in foreign countries such as the USA are inherited.

The irises that I photographed in the Ofuna Flower Center belong to a classic strain of the Ofuna iris family. They were bred based on the national export policy during the Taisho period (1912-1926). This breeding was linked to the historical background of the internationalization of modern Japan at the time. 

The main person behind this breeding was Bungo Miyazawa, who was the director of the Kanagawa Prefectural Agricultural Experiment Station at the time. Although this station continued only for a short period of time, some 300 varieties were bred by crossing the Edo-type iris varieties available at the time.

The current Ofuna Flower Center is the successor to this Kanagawa Prefectural Agricultural Experiment Station.

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