Guest Publisher Leonie Creighton.
Leonie is a knowledgeable and enthusiastic gardener she is the minutes secretary to the Black Pear Gardening Club. I have invited her as guest publisher for this seasonally appropriate article she wrote for the club newsletter.
One of my favourite plants at this time of year is IRIS UNGUICULARIS (I.stylosa) Algerian Iris.
This lovely flower is native to Algeria, Tunisia, Turkey , Greece and Syria where it grows in light scrub,open pine woods and rocky places.
It flowers from late autumn to early spring when so few plants are in flower. The flowers are beautifully scented, in shades of lavender to deep violet with a yellow throat.
This winter flowering Iris is easy to grow in well drained soil in full sun. Plant near a wall to help maintain the soils heat. I grow it in a raised bed that’s in full sunlight for most of the day, but that said I also grow it in a woodland area in partial sunlight and it is still happy but doesn’t flower quite so well. It is also useful to grow at the base of clematis as they like their heads in the sun and their roots in shade and it helps to hide the bare base of the clematis and keep its roots cool.
Plant it so that the rhizomes are just below the surface of the soil and 10cm (4in) apart.
It produces an evergreen mound of narrow, arching grass like foliage. This foliage does become brown and bit untidy but can easily be trimmed back to keep it looking good.
A top dressing of bone meal or potash in either autumn or spring is beneficial but look out for snails hiding among the leaves.
It dislikes being moved, but if you have to disturb it do it in spring after flowering. It may sulk for a while before it starts to flower again.
This is a long lived plant. I grow the species variety from divisions taken off my mother’s plant that has been growing in her garden for probably fifty years.
Two other very nice named varieties are ‘Mary Barnard’ which has a lovely velvety blue-purple flower, a much more intense colour than the species.
Also, ‘Walter Butt’ a ghostly pale grey-blue , but with a heavenly scent.
Hardiness: Fully hardy
Did you Know : Iris was a Greek goddess, the personification of the rainbow, which she used as her pathway though the sky.