Now this one is rather special. I have always like black iris even though, despite the general obsession for black flowers, they are not easy to use in the garden. The recently introduced black petunias are all very well but it is tricky to get the best from them and integrate them into a display rather than just show them off as some sort of horticultural freaks. I always think that pansies (viola) and iris ‘do black’ most convincingly and there are plenty of black iris.
Of course they are not really black and most have that blackcurrant cordial look when seen with the sun behind them. But ‘Ghost Train’ is a pretty good attempt at true black and seems a good grower. It is a 2000 introduction from Schreiners and is the child of ‘Around Midnight’ and ‘Hello Darkness’. It is a tall iris, reaching 95cm and has around 10 buds per stem – not bad. The flowers are nicely ruffled and although the standards are not really black the falls are convincingly so and have a velvety texture that absorbs rather than reflects the light. I also like that the beards are the same colour and are not brushed with gold which would detract – in my opinion. It is not supposed to be fragrant but it is to my nose and burying my nose in the flower on a cold grey day really cheered me up.