February's plant of the month

Algerian Iris

As in most gardens, at Glyndebourne, the traditional heralds of spring are snowdrops, crocuses and the occasional primrose. Tucked at the base of the walls around the house, though, is an unsung plant that has been in flower for weeks.

Iris unguicularis, commonly known as the the Algerian iris, has lavender-blue flowers that are sweetly scented. Seeing it flower in the middle of winter is always a surprise, as is where it grows. To thrive, this iris needs poor, dry soil that gets baked by the summer sun. To grow it in your own garden, plant it in the worst, stoniest soil you have and keep it dry. The flowers can be picked and last for days in a vase.

Not even this iris’s most ardent fan would say that the foliage is attractive. To describe it as untidy is being kind. But it is worth tolerating the mess of leaves for the beauty of the flowers. In the summer, when we are drowning in beautiful flowers, this flower would still be a treasure. In the middle of winter, it is worth more than rubies.

Click on the image gallery for each month’s special plant, and return here next month to discover more about our plant of the month for March.