Ten years in the making: Iris tectorum ‘Alba’

You can get a lot done in ten years. A magnolia will become a tree, a child can become a teenager. Who knows, you could probably become a millionaire.

But it has taken ten years for my Iris tectorum ‘Alba’ seeds to grow into plants with their first flowers. Now this is plainly rediculous. You can get flowers on a seedling magnolia in less time. Even nonsense on websites about how long it takes to get flowers on cardiocrinum and other ‘mythical’ plants tell you it takes the magical ‘seven years’ to get flowers. So why so long?

Well the seeds were brought with me when I arrived in Ireland ten years ago (where did that decade go?), were sown and the seedlings stayed in pots for years, waiting to be planted. I had three seedlings and gave one away. The remaining two struggled in pots, starved and crowded, till I eventually had a garden of my own for them to call home. I wanted to let them go free so they went into the first beds I made and they hated it. They disliked the heavy soil, the winter wet and the snails loved them. It was looking really sad. But then, last year, the raised beds were made and I moved them there. And they have shown their appreciation by flowering.

Iris tectorum is an Evansia or crested iris. These have horizontal rhizomes, rather like bearded iris but they don’t have beards along their falls but a crest. The most popular is Iris japonica and. like many of them, has a golden flash under the crest and blue spots. All are beautiful and have floppy standards and are commonly compared to butterflies. Iris tectorum has lavender blue flowers. It was one of the first iris I grew and I remember it well because when I was at Myddelton House I grew it and a clump decided to ‘remont’ and bloom in September. I took it to a Westminster RHS show for the British Iris Society stand which was showing remontant iris. It was met with some incredulity because Iris tectorum doesn’t rebloom. But there it was!

It didn’t do it again.

Commonly called the Japanese roof iris because the Japanese are supposed to grow it on roofs, it is not actually Japanese but Chinese. It needs a bright spot and well-drained soil but is otherwise not fussy. It is fully hardy, unlike most of its kin such as Iris japonica and others like the magnificent Iris confusa which has unusual upright stems and looks like a lusty, small bamboo.

Ten years is a long time to wait for a flower but now my plants are happy I can expect flowers every year and, after all, I did get other things done during those ten years.

Even older, the chamaerops palm, which also had a long, slow start, in a pot for 20 years and released into the raised beds a few years ago, is happy and growing well and producing flower clusters. It has done that before but there seems to be a big flush of flowers this year.

5 Comments on “Ten years in the making: Iris tectorum ‘Alba’”

  1. tonytomeo
    May 13, 2023 at 6:10 pm #

    It might have been easier to retain it as seed for a few years (if you had known how long the seed are reliably viable).

    • thebikinggardener
      May 14, 2023 at 8:24 am #

      Indeed – but you never know what is ahead of you. It was probably better to sow them as I would surely have lost the seeds even if they had remained viable.

  2. Paddy Tobin
    May 13, 2023 at 6:18 pm #

    Worth the wait as it’s a beautiful flower.

  3. Meriel
    May 17, 2023 at 10:29 pm #

    Gorgeous and definitely worth the wait – you will cherish them all the more!

    • thebikinggardener
      May 18, 2023 at 7:40 am #

      I do ! BTW, the cuttings from the Diascia personata are flowering – thank you!

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