Hinton Ampner Garden

Iris unguicularis

(formerly I. stylosa ) Algerian iris


The Main Terrace


Unguiculus means a small or narrow claw. A small compact perennial with an erect habit, mid-green leaves and almost stemless, fragrant, purple flowers with white and yellow markings that it bears throughout winter. Generally the leaves grow about 12 to 15in, with the flowers nestling among them. Although the buds are frost-proof, the flowers are not and the flowers always seem to come as a surprise appearing anytime from New Year to Mother's day. It is the native of stony ground in Algeria, Greece, Crete, Syria, and Asia Minor.

Site and Care:

While they can tolerate appalling growing conditions; poor ground at the foot of a wall, they will benefit from a big soak and exposure to the sun in August and September. Sun and poverty are the two things it likes; rich cultivation makes it run to leaf rather than to flower. Chop down its leaves in May or early June but leave some foliage to protect the flowers. Pull away any dead matter and tolerate a little untidiness. New roots are formed in autumn and it is the best time to move or divide them although they resent this.