Delicate blooms that stand the rigours of winter snowBy Linda Fort
January 22, 2010
MY father was not a romantic man but in the depth of winter he would bring in a posy for my mother.
It was not something he did in summer, reluctant to spoil the floral display in the border.
But one flower which performed an annual winter miracle was so lovely, he felt compelled to bring it in to show my mum, knowing she would never see its beauty herself from indoors.
The flower grew in a massive clump along the length of the side of the house.
My mother had a theory that it flowered in winter because of the heat in the wall from the coal fire inside.
She was right about the wall – exactly the right place to plant it – but not about the coal fire.
In fact, the Iris unguicularis or Algerian iris, as my father called it, naturally flowers in the winter.
All year long the clump of long strappy leaves looked a tangled mess which is why planting it along the side of the house where no-one really looked at it was not a bad idea.
Then in January each year it began to perform its little quiet miracle.
The flowers are pure and delicate with fragile succulent stems – that are not really stems at all but an extension of the flower – and papery bluish-lilac and orange petals.
Yet they can withstand the very worst the winter can produce.
I have often seen them poking their fragile heads through thick snow.
I have some blooming in my garden right now and we all know only too well the damage done to the garden by the recent snowfall.
But these tiny jewels modestly challenge the cold and hint at the coming spring.
Don’t forget them when spring comes. Seek the rhizomes out and plant some in some poor soil at the foot of a wall.
You will never regret it.