I can feel the sap rising, can’t you? Off to the shops to acquire something to titillate the most jaded roué. Release your inner blood hound and truffle on the Internet, if you don’t know where your local nurseries reside. Remember that the crusty old man who runs the lone back lane shop single-handed may not have any truck with new fangled ideas like computers or telephones. He may even be surprised that you don’t possess a tractor or horse and cart to negotiate the pot holed track that he calls his drive. Last year a friend told me about a huge expanse of horticultural paradise out in the sticks, about which I knew nothing. I get weak at the knees just thinking about untold acres of inexpensive booty. You have some chums who are every bit as helpful, just don’t grass them up when your partner wants to know where the money went.
A symphony in blue
I recommend the purchase of any plant that catches your eye and loosens your corsets. In Greek mythology, Iris was the messenger of the Gods, she being Goddess of the sea and the sky. This week, the nurseries are sprinkled with pots full of miniature Iris reticulata, the species name referring to the netted covering on the outside of the bulbs. If you buy now, you can ensure that you get exquisite blue blossoms that will perform early, mid and late season, in various shades of azure, sapphire and indigo.
Iris reticulata ‘Harmony’
The bulbs are remarkably tolerant of most soil, being happy in chalk, clay, sand or loam and liking an East, West, North or South aspect. They are hardy and don’t mind a sheltered or exposed site, asking only for sunshine and good drainage. A soggy iris will collapse like a pole-axed pensioner who has been told that the Post Office is closing for good. They do not fall for lots of disease, they don’t need pruning and the foliage has been and gone by the time that the annual aphid attack is under-way. Slugs and snails may cause some damage but they are sluts and will take a bite out of anything. Surround the plants with some sharp grit which will improve drainage and discourage the slimy sods, if only slightly.
Iris ‘Katherine Hodgkin’
Since the plant is a dwarf variety, it makes sense to put it where you can see it without getting your boots out of the shed. The flower sits at 6 inches (15 cm.) above the ground, so place it towards the front of the border. Plant it deeply, to discourage the bulb from splitting. Like most small specimens, Iris look best when grown in drifts, so buy as many as the current account can stand. If you get it right, clumps will form which may be split up and spread about in early autumn. A sunny site will give you the best show, encouraging growth and illuminating the jewelled petals like a stained glass window. I like “Katherine Hodgkin” and “Harmony” particularly but if you read up on the genus, you will find an expert talking themselves to an orgasm over pretty much any of them. Cheap thrills when it’s too cold to take your trousers off; what more could you want?