Striking but not gaudy, this flower's natural charm is being ignored in favour of wishy-washy shades

The French are tres keen on irises. Look at Monet's garden in Giverny. es also crop up regularly in huge beds in French municipal jardins. Over here, they are less kindly looked on. The British Society sees hundreds of new varieties a year, but few make it into garden centres. This is because iris boffins (yes, they exist) ignore the charm of a plant that in its simplest form has beautiful, deep lilac-blue flowers - striking but not gaudy. Instead, they develop enormous hybrids, or washed-out shades of peach, apricot and even pale brown that look like damp, used tissues flapping in the breeze. Avoid these beige varieties. Washed-out hues may be well-bred, but it's possible to go too far. Hester Lacey