November is not a great time of year. The weather closes in, the days are getting shorter, and we are bombarded with Christmas adverts (the first one I saw this year was in June!!). So anything that ventures into flower just now is extremely welcome.
Iris unguicularis (formely known as I. stylosa) hails from Algeria and you may be forgiven for thinking it couldn’t possibly survive a British winter. But it does, flowering bravely during spells of mild weather, often batttered and bruised, but still lifting the spirits
Coming from North Africa, it craves warmth. Plant it in full sun in poor soil – at the foot of a south-facing wall is ideal – and neither feed nor move it; it loves starvation. It can often be January, February, or even March before its blooms unfurl, but this year’s hot summer apeears to have brought the display foward, and here it is, in full bloom at the end of November.
Marauding parties of slugs and snails enjoy a festive nibble on the flowers, and removing the old, dead foliage gives them fewer hiding places. Alternatively, the flowering stems can be cut and brought indoors while still in bud, allowing the flowers to open without becoming munched and spoilt. The type has purple flowers, but there is also a form with white ones which I thought I had managed to track down, but it turned out to be another purple one when it bloomed. Maybe I will be given one for Christmas.