Collectibles from Peta Trahar's richly planted garden at Woodgreen

25 Jul 2017

Irish Iris?

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An Irish Iris?

Text and photos Peta Trahar


One of the great joys of a Winter garden is the low growing and clump forming perennial, known as the Algerian Iris or Iris unguicalaris (formerly Iris stylosa). When I left home in Hobart to move interstate, a division of my mother’s precious blue Algerian Iris came with me. It survived, sulking, in my coastal Sydney garden, but once transported to a very sunny, well drained spot in the mountains, it never looked back.


I’ve given it no fertiliser as this will encourage too much leaf and interestingly, the older the clump, the better it flowers. Tatty old foliage is pulled out in late Summer, in fact this year I gave it a severe haircut so that the Winter flowers will be easier to admire.


As well as blue, there are white, lavender and soft pink colours available. Named cultivars include ‘Mary Barnard’, ‘Walter Butt’ and ‘Starkers Pink’.


A couple of years ago I purchased a tube stock sized Algerian Iris from the Victorian nursery, Mistydowns. It was called ‘Blue Stripe’. When it eventually flowered I was thrilled. It was a standout! The petals were streaked and marbled – dark blue over pale blue with yellow and white details. Quite beautiful!


The internet often takes up too much of our time but it can also be a great mine of information. While checking out the Irish Garden Plant Society site one evening on the computer, lo and behold there was an image, or so I thought, of my Iris ‘Blue Stripe’. It was called ‘Kilbroney Marble’. The information below the image revealed that ‘Kilbroney Marble’ had been discovered in a garden in County Down and had been propagated and distributed by the famous Irish nursery, Slieve Donard.


The mystery deepened. Curious and keen to begin some detective work I phoned Judy Morrison at Mistydowns. Yes, Judy grows and propagates ‘Blue Stripe’ and she remembers well buying it from the late Dennis Norgate. Many of you will remember Norgate’s Plant Farm and its tempting mail order catalogue of unusual cottage plants. Did Dennis get Iris unguicalaris ‘Blue Stripe’ from Ireland?


I sent an image of my ‘Blue Stripe’ to the Irish Garden Plant Society and they agree it looks very much like ‘Kilbroney Marble’. The romantic side of me wants that. I’d like to think that I have a piece of Irish gardening heritage to treasure. Does anyone else have it? Do let me know!

Walk peacefully, smell the roses and be touched by the hand of Nature
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