February plant of the month

Dainty little darlings make colourful carpets and potted displays

Small and sweet, diminutive and dainty, Iris reticulata is a reliable little plant that always lifts the month of February. Often only a few centimetres tall, these bulbous perennial irises have the ability to carpet large areas of otherwise bare ground under trees, grasses or in the open. Yet they are equally adept as specimens in a pot that you can place at eye level, allowing you to see the intricate patterns and markings – there is such variety of colour in the midrib and veining of the predominantly violet, purple or blue petals.

Iris reticulata 'Palm Springs'We’re lucky enough at RHS Garden Wisley to have the space to grow Iris reticulata inside and out, in all sorts of places. To enjoy them en masse, Seven Acres is a great place to start.

Deep purple ones fill the void beneath the ornamental grasses and around the base of some of the trees. Further around on the Winter Walk you’ll find yellow Iris danfordiae and more Iris reticulata cultivars, including ‘Palm Springs’ (see photo), ‘Alida’, ‘Clairette’, ‘Blue Note’ and ‘Sheila Ann Germaney’. There’s more here too – too many to mention!
 

Multi-hued treasures

Iris 'George' in the Alpine display houseUp on the Rock Garden, deep purple ‘George’ AGM (see photo) has a commanding view from the top of the bank in the shade of the oak tree, and in the bed nearby, paler, more subtle tones of yellow and blue depict the small cultivar ‘Katharine Hodgkin’ AGM.

To get a proper close-up, take a look in the Alpine Display House where these two cultivars are among those grown in pots. The displays here are changed daily as required, so there’s always something new and pristine. Gorgeous.

Because they flower so early, these irises can find a home almost anywhere. And the colours are soothing to the eye (depending on the cultivar). They are lovely in a single drift, or mix well with cyclamen, snowdrops and similar. Let the leaves die back naturally so they vanish for the rest of the season, and all being well they’ll make a magical return next year.
 

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