Friday, May 16, 2008

Iris Unguicularis The Winter Flowering Iris

This is the Winter flowering iris is often referred to as 'Iris stylosa' or 'Algerian Iris'. A Frenchman named Desfontaine in 1798 discovered the iris in Algeria, giving it the name of Stylosa on account of its peculiarity in the way the style rises some distance in the flower before branching out to form the style arms. However Desfontaine later found that a compatriot, Poiret had discovered the iris thirteen years earlier and had given it the name unguicularis taken from the Latin "unguis" meaning claw with reference to the claw-like formation of the style and its branches.
It's reliable habit of non stop winter blooming an established plant very quickly becomes a terrific asset to the winter garden.

Stunning lavender blue flowers are 10-20cm (4"-8") tall and are often hidden among the long 40-60cm (18"-24") evergreen drooping leaves which are pleasant to the eye all year round. Grow it against a sunny wall of the house, it will thrive in a lime stony soil and it loves neglect. The longer and dryer the summer, the better bloom the following winter. The leaves as you can see in the above photo can get untidy and ratty-looking so a light pruning late summer of older leaf growth will tidy up the plant, and stimulate new clean growth.  Originally from Algeria, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Israel, and Lebanon. There are several New Zealand registered varieties 'City of Sails', 'Bunty',and 'Violet Crescent', are a few, but where these plants can be purchased from is a mystery, which is most annoying.
This iris was given to me as a gift, and I cannot find a commercial seller of this iris in New Zealand so if someone knows perhaps they would be kind enough to leave a comment on where it is available from.
Most certainly another irresistible iris.

Photo Credit and Copyright Iris Hunter.



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