Just call it the Algerian iris, for that’s what it is, and it copes well with the worst of our weather, provided you give it really well-drained soil and a spot in full sun at the bottom of a south-facing house wall. Take care not to plant it too deeply and don’t worry about providing it with lashings of compost, manure and fertiliser – the lightest sprinkling of blood, fish and bone will do nicely.

What it hates more than anything, though, is disturbance, so don’t start all that digging up and dividing lark every three years or it won’t bother to flower.

Once established it makes what even its mother would not call a handsome plant – just a low fountain of rather unruly, narrow leaves. Any dead ones can be pulled out in summer.

But in winter, among these leaves appear the spears, which open to reveal gorgeous, fragile-looking flowers, each petal marked with white and yellow in typical iris fashion.

So if you have a sunny, south-facing wall alongside which lies poor soil, order a few Algerian irises for planting once the weather is more favourable.

It won’t be long before you become as attached to them as I am.

Don’t miss Alan’s gardening column in today’s Daily Express. For more information on his range of gardening products, visit alantitchmarsh.com.

What is it?

A winter jewel of a plant that rewards patience. If you have a sunny, sheltered wall, plant the rhizomes of Iris unguicularis at its base and wait. It may take a few years, but you will be rewarded by delicate, lavender-blue flowers from Christmas until early spring. The plant itself is hardy, but its blooms are neither frost- nor slug-proof, so cut flower stems while still furled and bring them indoors to watch them slowly open. Height and spread: 30cm x 30cm.

Any good varieties?

Pale lavender ‘Walter Butt’ and intense purple ‘Mary Barnard’ are the most popular choices (and often the only ones); the white ‘Alba’ is a bit wishy-washy.

Plant it with?

The beautifully variegated leaves of Italian Arum ‘Marmoratum’ make an ideal partner.

And where?

This iris thrives on neglect, but it has to be the right kind of neglect. Bear in mind that its home is North Africa and parts of the Mediterranean, so shelter, sun, impoverished soil and a lack of winter wet are vital.

Any drawbacks?

The grass-like foliage is a scrappy mess most of the year. Tidy after flowering.

What else can it do?

The flowers release a sweet perfume that fills a room when they are brought inside.

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Drought Tolerant Iris

There can hardly be a more useful, more obliging perennial than the winter flowering Iris unguicularis which starts to bloom in May and carries on its display well into September. The clone most commonly found in gardens is known throughout the horticultural world as The Algerian Iris. It makes a tussock of arching, dark green leathery leaves, 1cm wide by 60cm long. Large lilac flowers nestle in the foliage. If gently pulled whilst in pencil, that is just before they open, the flowers will last four or five days in a vase filling the room with a delicious primrose fragrance as they unfurl.

There are a few different forms of Iris unguicularis ‘Alba’. I grow a really good one which should perhaps be given a distinguishing name as it is so much better than the older, thin petalled, rather pinched looking white selections. I raised my clone from seed about twenty years ago. It has large creamy white flowers with lovely yellow markings on the falls.

I.‘Mary Barnard’, collected in 1937 near Algiers is a very good doer with large, dark violet flowers beautifully marked with contrasting gold lines on the falls.

A variety which is sometimes available is I. u. ‘Variegata’ with darker mottling and streaking on the lilac flower. This mottling is more than likely caused by virus disease and is not in any way attractive.

Iris unguicularis not only grows in Algeria and Tunisia but also in Greece, Crete, Rhodes, Turkey, Syria and Lebanon.

Three years ago Marcus Harvey (www.hillviewrareplants.com ) sent me seeds of Iris unguicularis ssp cretensis which he had collected on the Mani peninsula in the Peleponese. The seed germinated well and when the plants were big enough I planted a drift of two hundred or so under a row of Mt Fuji flowering cherries.

Only a handful of the seedlings bloomed last year but this season every plant is flowering. Whilst there is quite a range of flower colour, from soft lilac to deep violet, it’s the markings on the falls which vary the most. Every plant has a different patterning, some have bold white brush strokes, some have faint white markings between violet veins and others have rings of white and lilac. All have gold and violet guide lines to help pollinators find the style and stigma. The standards of these Iris are almost as large as the falls and all have a striking a gold-bronze haft. Arching, narrow dark green leaves are about 40cm long and the flower stem is 30cm tall.

Iris cretensis ‘Mia’ is a plant I selected from a batch of seedlings grown from a 1984 collection that Jim and Jenny Archibald made in Messinia in the hills above Pilos in the Peleponese. ‘Mia’ is a compact plant with 20cm tall, upright leaves. The dark violet-blue flowers are relatively small but are displayed well. It does best in a sunny spot and is small and neat enough for a rock garden.

Similar in size is I. cretensis ‘Starker’s Pink’ which has attractive lilac-pink flowers. I got it Iris cretensis ‘Starker’s Pink’ thirty years ago from Ken Gillanders who ran Woodbank Nursery in Tasmania at the time. Sadly ‘Starker’s Pink’ isn’t a vigorous plant but it is so beautiful that it’s worth every effort to make it happy. In my garden it does best in a sunny well drained spot which has been fenced off against rabbits. Rabbits will graze this Iris to death if given half a chance.

None of the I. u. cretensis clones I grow are fragrant, although when brought inside a faint whiff of honey can be detected.

Lambley Nursery has four varieties of Iris unguicularis listed on the web catalogue.

Iris Stylosa Stock Photos and Images

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  • Iris unguicularis, Iris stylosa (Algerian Iris)
  • Beautiful blue Iris The Peloponnese form of cretan iris Formerly known as Iris unguicularis and Iris stylosa
  • Algerian Iris, Iris stylosa
  • botany, Iris, flowering,
  • Beautiful blue Iris The Peloponnese form of cretan iris Formerly known as Iris unguicularis and Iris stylosa
  • Algerian Iris- Iris unguicularis
  • botany, Iris, species: Iris xiphioides, flower heads,
  • Algerian Iris- Iris unguicularis – Family Iridaceae
  • ‘botany, Iris, species: ‘Algerian Iris’, (Iris unguicularis), blossom, at shoot, Iris stylosa, Iridaceae, Liliales, Liliidae,
  • WINTER-FLOWERING IRIS (IRIS STYLOSA, UNGUICULARIS )
  • Iris unguicularis, Algerian iris, in flower in early Febraury, UK winter garden
  • Iris Unguicularis – or Algerian iris, a clear blue winter-flowering iris,
  • Close-up of Algerian Iris / Dwarf Winter flowering iris- Iris unguicularis -Family Iridaceae
  • N/A. eÅ¡tina: fotografie v knize Colour in the Flower Garden, Gertrude Jekyll, na obrázku kosatce Iris stylosa, autor fotografie neuveden. 31 March 2012. unknown, released 1908, neznámý, vydáno: 1908 368 Colour in the Flower Garden07
  • . The book of hardy flowers; a simple and complete descriptive guide to the cultivation in gardens of the trees and shrubs, perennial and annual flowers, that are hardy, or are suitable for planting out-of-doors in summer in temperate countries. Floriculture. THE ALGERIAN IRIS (IRIS STYLOSA) A HARDY BALSAM iIMPATIENS HYBRIDA). Please note that these images are extracted from scanned page images that may have been digitally enhanced for readability – coloration and appearance of these illustrations may not perfectly resemble the original work.. Thomas, H. H. (Harry Higgott) ed. New York, Funk &
  • Close-up of Algerian Iris / Dwarf Winter flowering iris- Iris unguicularis -Family Iridaceae
  • . Die Gartenwelt . Iris stylosa alba. Originalaufnahme für die âGartenwelt". Ruellia macrantha ist eine schönblühende Herbstpflanze. Sie .rehört zu den Acanthaceen und ist in Brasilien heimisch. Die Blütezeit fällt in die Monate November und Dezember. Die Pflanze ist uns in dieser blumenarmen Periode besonders wertvoll. Die Blüten kommen einzeln aus den Blattwinkeln hervor und sitzen sich paarig gegenüber, weil die Blätter auch paarig sitzen. Ihre Farbe ist lilarosa, ähnlich der Farbe der Rehmannia angulata. Die Form der Blüte gleicht jener der Streptocarpus Rexii. Der Schlund
  • . The book of hardy flowers; a simple and complete descriptive guide to the cultivation in gardens of the trees and shrubs, perennial and annual flowers, that are hardy, or are suitable for planting out-of-doors in summer in temperate countries. Floriculture. .*G F. /^ ^ y/ fti^” r/ ^ jajjH. THE ALGERIAN IRIS (IRIS STYLOSA) A HARDY BALSAM iIMPATIENS HYBRIDA). Please note that these images are extracted from scanned page images that may have been digitally enhanced for readability – coloration and appearance of these illustrations may not perfectly resemble the original work.. Thomas, H. H. (H
  • Close-up of Algerian Iris / Dwarf Winter flowering iris- Iris unguicularis -Family Iridaceae
  • Algerian Iris (Iris unguicularis) flowering, Peloponesos, Southern Greece, april
  • Colour in the flower garden . coating of Phlomis, Lavender, Rosemary,Cistus and Santolina; and at the end and angle wherethe wall is highest, a mass of Pyrus japonica, plantedboth above and below, already showing its rose-redbloom. At one point at the foot of the wall is astrong tuft of Iris stylosa whose first blooms appearedin November. This capital plant flowers bravely allthrough the winter in any intervals of open weather.It likes a sunny place against a wall in poor soil. Ifit is planted in better ground the leaves grow very talland it gives but little bloom. Now we pass among some shrub
  • Close-up of Algerian Iris / Dwarf Winter flowering iris covered with dew- Iris unguicularis -Family Irid
  • Algerian Iris (Iris unguicularis) close-up of flower petal, Peloponesos, Southern Greece, april
  • Algerian Iris- Iris unguicularis -syn.Iris stylosa
  • . The American florist : a weekly journal for the trade. Floriculture; Florists. i88g. The American Florist. 29 Orders now taken for Fall and Spring Delivery of the beautifut Decorative Palm RHAPIS Fl-ABELLIFORMIS.. UllAI CvcAS Revoh’Ta Stkms of the mVE LOm-LEAVED VARIETY, Tbp c.nly line vHlusble for Uiirists. Fine sliipcd heads, stronK. 5 ioches to 4 feet ia height. AKAI CARIAS in Rorts. HAHOY IVIAllNOLIAS. .lATANKSli SIAI’LKS in 20 distinct vars. MAfl-E SKKDblNOs for KraflinK. UAKDV CONII’KKS. NOMil.TIKS in iree I’neonias. IIBKBACEOI S l’:i-oillHs. Iris K.iiii)f”ri, Iris Stylosa lil”i’ina. C
  • Algerian Iris / Dwarf Winter flowering iris- Iris unguicularis
  • Blooms of the Algerian iris (Iris unguicularis), in a winter garden, February, UK
  • Close-up of Algerian Iris / Dwarf Winter flowering iris- Iris unguicularis -Family Iridaceae
  • . The American florist : a weekly journal for the trade. Floriculture; Florists. Rhapis Flabelliformis. CvcAs REVOLUTA Stems of the TRUE LOm-LEAVED VARIETY, The only one valuable for Qorists. Fine shaped heads, strong, 4 inches to 4 feet in height. AKAICARIAS in sorts. HARDY MAtiNOLI.VS. .lAPANKSK MAPLES in 24 distinct vars. MAFI.E SKKDI.INGS forKraftins. HAKIIY CONIKKRS. N”n El.TIKS In Tree Pajonias. HEKBAt’EOl S P:>-onias. Iris Ki.uipfori. Iris Stylosa lilai-ina, Chrys- anttieuiiiiiis, Camellias and Azaleas. Sent! tor our Catalogue and Price List of 30 VARS. JAPANESE BULBS. Early orders a
  • Blooms of the Algerian iris (Iris unguicularis), in a winter garden, February, UK
  • Iris Unguicularis
  • Close-up of blue Iris
  • Blooms of the Algerian iris (Iris unguicularis), in a winter garden, February, UK
  • Iris Unguicularis
  • Algerian iris (Iris unguicularis). Photographed in winter.
  • . Wholesale catalogue of choice Dutch bulbs roots and plants : fall 1901. Nursery stock New Jersey Englewood Catalogs; Bulbs (Plants) Catalogs; Flowers Catalogs; Plants, Ornamental Catalogs. 22 Please Note Low Prices per 100 and 1000. Various Sorts of Iris—Continued. , Each Per doz. Per 100 "Reticulata, of exquisite beauty, very early, sweet-scented sort, of a fine purple-blue color, lower petals of a darker shade, with yellow and white stripes, spotted with black, fine for forcing, .fo 20 $2 oo $14 00 Stylosa, fine foliage, excellent for indoors, loveliest blue, golden bands and blotches
  • Iris Unguicularis
  • . Wholesale catalogue of choice Dutch bulbs roots and plants : fall 1901. Nursery stock New Jersey Englewood Catalogs; Bulbs (Plants) Catalogs; Flowers Catalogs; Plants, Ornamental Catalogs. 22 Please Note Low Prices per 100 and 1000. Various Sorts of Iris—Continued. , Each Per doz. Per 100 "Reticulata, of exquisite beauty, very early, sweet-scented sort, of a fine purple-blue color, lower petals of a darker shade, with yellow and white stripes, spotted with black, fine for forcing, .fo 20 $2 oo $14 00 Stylosa, fine foliage, excellent for indoors, loveliest blue, golden bands and blotches
  • Iris Unguicularis
  • Iris Unguicularis

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