Iris foetidissima

This ins will succeed in deep shade and dryish, but not totally arid, soil. It is a fine foliage plant making tall, fan-shaped clumps of glossy green leaves. The mauvish flowers are poor creatures, but they form seed pods which split in autumn to disclose rows of bright orange seeds, so there is beauty and interest all the year round. The plant is named foetidissima because it exhales a horrid smell if bruised but, as I am not in the habit of bruising my irises, it has not offended me. The leaves being spiky, this ins looks best with round-leaved or creeping plants round about. I have seen it planted at random under an oak-tree with bergenias and periwinkles, and it looks splendid, if the soil is not too dry, with one of my favourite euphorbias, E. amygdaloides robbiae. Most of us cannot boast an oak-tree in the garden, and I find that of all the trees suitable for smaller gardens, hazels are the most sympathetic to underplantmg. The ins is not long-lived, so look for seedlings round about your plants and protect them carefully.

A variegated form of this iris. ‘Variega-ta’. With greenand-white striped leaves, needs more light than the plain green species. It is beautiful in winter against low evergreen shrubs, such as skimmias, perhaps with a few early daffodils, like ‘February Gold’, to make a green, white and yellow picture. It does not bear seeds.

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