Iris japonica

White form of Iris japonica

This easy-to-grow evergreen Iris is one which prefers semi-shaded woodland sites in the garden, unlike many of its relatives. It is one of the crested or Evansia species and comes from Japan and China. The term 'crested' alludes to the 'crest' or ridge on their three larger outer petals (or 'falls'). The leaves are formed into fans 45 cm in height, which multiply quickly into a groundcover via surface-rooting rhizomes. There are pale blue and white flowering forms: the pretty ruffled blooms appear on 60cm spikes in late winter and early spring. There is also a cultivar called 'Variegata' with white-striped leaves, which rarely flowers but is an attractive foliage plant for shaded areas. The plants like a slightly acidic soil and will cope with quite dry, neglected conditions; however, they will do much better if they are given some moisture, a yearly feed and a blanket of mulch every so often. Poor drainage may result in the plants succumbing to fungal diseases. They are very easy to propagate by the division of the clumps. In late spring I cut off those which have flowered right at the base of the fan; this reduces congestion and minimises the shabby foliage which seems to develop on fans which have already bloomed. This Iris does clump up quite quickly, so make sure it doesn't creep into areas where you don't want it! It can be planted or divided at any time.

Iris japonica Variegata

They grow well under trees or shrubs such as Camellia japonica and Rondeletia and they are good companions to some of the smaller shade-loving flowers of late winter and early spring, such as hybrid hellebores, snowflakes, azaleas, Crassula multicava and bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica). They look effective grown along the edges of paths in shady parts of the garden. Lavender-blue Iris wattii and near-white Iris confusa belong to the same group of Evansia or created Iris. None of this type is as frost hardy as other Iris species, but they are ideal for Sydney's climate.

Flowers in August, September.

 Out now in my Sydney Garden.