Iris laevigata

This superlative iris is a true aquatic, growing just as well in shallow water as by the margin of a pond or lake, a gift for masking the hard edge of an artificial garden pool. A native of Japan and China, the smooth spears of pale green leaves make a background for hosts of deep lavender-blue flowers with broad, drooping falls, the whole plant doubly beautiful when reflected in the water. This is a beardless iris some 2 feet (60 cm) tall, flowering in mid-summer and dying down completely in winter.

Iris laevigata, like most aquatics, should be grown in full sun. The sharp leaves contrast well with the rounded foliage of rodgersias, hostas, or the umbrella plant (Peltiphyllum peltatum), a planting for rich. Acid soil. All these must be by the water’s edge, not in the water, as must Iris kaempferi. This is a taller relation of /. laevigata, with ribbed leaves and flatter flowers (the falls and standards melting together), in various shades of blue often marked with white.

Iris laevigata has a lovely variegated form, with cream and green striped leaves, and also a white form. It is possible to grow all these forms in a moist border, but this would involve much pointless watering when even a small pool would offer a more sympathetic home.

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