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An iris by another name....
Member Name: alysonfreeman
Date: 07/09/01, updated on 07/09/01 (203 review reads)
Advantages: Easy from seed, Attractive flowers and leaves
Disadvantages: None yet
No, I hadn’t heard of this plant either! I saw it in Mr Fothergill’s seed catalogue last year (2000). The description said that it had blue flowers similar to an iris and was a hardy perennial.
It belongs to the Iris family, but is the only member of the genus Pardanthopsis. The alternative name is Vesper Iris, and it comes from Central Asia and China.
I sowed the seeds in a small pot in my greenhouse in March 2000. Tiny grass-like seedlings soon appeared, which I pricked out into individual 3.5 inch pots filled with multi-purpose compost. I got 20 plants from a nominal 20 seeds!
The plants grew into small fans of stiff foliage just like an iris, and I planted them out in two groups in a sunny bed in early June.
Many of the plants flowered in August. The buds appear at the ends of branched, candelabra-like stems and are pointed and twisted. They do not open until the late afternoon – you can look one minute and no flowers will be in evidence, and a few minutes later there will be dozens of blooms! The flowers are delightful – like small irises, opening quite flat. They are purplish-blue with white markings. Each seems to last only one day, but lots more open every day.
Now in their second year, about 15 plants remain. They reach about 3 feet tall and are quite airy, allowing plants behind to be seen. Some leaves remained over winter, but they mostly re-emerged in Spring and started to flower at the beginning of July. They are still in full flower at the beginning of September. They are in poor, sandy, stony soil in full sun with other perennials.
These plants were easy to grow from seed and have proved valuable in my border, which is colour-themed with mainly blue and purple plants. I would recommend them as a cheap way to obtain a quantity of unusual plants which flower over a fairly long period and give height and interest to a border. I expect the plants to be short-lived, and will col
lect seed this year (several pods are already setting), and attempt to grow some more plants.
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