We’ve had a mild winter in the Vancouver area so far, with only one week of daytime freezing temperatures early in the winter. It is now one of those years where we are seeing noticeable early bloom times on some of the plants in the Garden. As of the final week of January, there are at least a couple dozen taxa in bloom. If the weather persists, it may be one of those years where the first magnolias blossom in early March, if not late February.
This Algerian iris was photographed yesterday afternoon in the E.H. Lohbrunner Alpine Garden here at UBC. Nearby, I also photographed what was going to be the original subject of today’s posting, something labeled Crocus rujanensis. However, after reading some discussions about how to identify that species, it looks like we will have to verify the identity of that accession. There is no doubt about the identity of this iris, however, as it is one of the few irises that flower during winter (another common name is winter-flowering iris). Its native range includes Algeria, of course, but also adjacent Morocco. It can also be found in Greece (including Crete), Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and Israel. Here in Vancouver, it may perhaps flower as early as December (though I didn’t notice it), as we would have a similar climate and corresponding bloom time to parts of southern England (read Vita Sackville-West’s 1950 account of this plant here: “From the archive: the iris that thrives on sun and poverty“).
The suggestion of thriving on poverty is in reference to the ability of this species to prosper in poor soils. As well, it is known to be drought-tolerant. To top off these qualities that make it a choice species for what can be a difficult gardening situation, it is also sweetly and lightly fragrant. I noticed this when photographing it. Some writers suggest to use it as a indoors cut-flower, as it is long-lasting and this is a particularly good way to enjoy the scent.