I adore irises. Their blooms recall the style and elegance of days gone by and appear throughout the spring and summer, starting in early February. After last year’s RHS London Plant and Design Show I vowed to try out some of the new introductions of spring-flowering Iris reticulata shown there by Jacques Amand. My decision is now being richly rewarded with a succession of chic flowers in shades ranging from bleached denim to deepest indigo. The darkest flowers of all those I chose belong to Iris reticulata ‘Blue Note’. Saturated violet petals graduate into midnight blue falls, as if someone had spattered ink on a sheet of brilliant white writing paper.
Iris reticulata cultivars are extremely easy to grow, but I have found them difficult to sustain in open ground. Neither of our gardens offer the kind of sunny, well drained, sheltered conditions these little flowers prefer, which is why I grow them in clay pots. Far from being a nuisance, this allows me to admire the flowers up close, and to enjoy their delicate perfume. If pots are to be left standing outside, a top dressing of grit will prevent any compost splashing up onto the petals, but moss would look prettier for an indoor display. Rarely do I bother to keep my iris bulbs from one year to the next, but treasures like I. ‘Blue Note’ deserve to be nurtured. After a summer rest, they will be replanted in fresh compost next autumn.
Iris reticulata ‘Blue Note’, like I. ‘Spot On’, is an introduction from Canada, where enthusiast and breeder Alan McMurtie has spent many years hybridising and selecting the very best cultivars. I particularly admire the slender, V-shaped petals of ‘Blue Note’ and their yellow-freckled undersides. Oddly, they remind me of the markings on a great crested newt’s tummy. Photographed yesterday, against a backdrop of Narcissus ‘Tete-a-Tete’, the velvety texture of the iris’ falls sparkles in the sunlight. Pure joy, and a reminder that spring is just around the corner.