Over the past few years, I've been thinking more about adding winter interest to the garden. In some areas of the country gardening with "winter interest" means berries and interesting or colorful bark on trees. However, I've come to realize that in our area, we don't have to settle for only these features--we can have something blooming all winter! Think camellias, hellebores, edgeworthia, pansies, etc.
And lately I've discovered that there are also irises that bloom in the winter. These are not the irises that many of us have that bloom in the spring and rebloom in the fall. I'm talking about irises that have their primary bloom period in winter. For instance, Iris reticulata:
and Iris unguicularis:
I would really like to add a few winter-blooming irises to our winter garden but I ran into two problems: availability and cost. I have been unable to locate Iris reticulata in stock at any domestic nursery. (They seem to be much more common in the United Kingdom.) I'm going to check back in late summer with the domestic nurseries that had it, but listed it as "out of stock." I think these are usually planted in the fall so I may have better luck later finding them in stock.
The other problem was cost. I found Iris unguicularis on the Plant Delights Nursery website. It was $24 for a 4-inch pot. Yowza!! After considering for several days whether I wanted this plant that much, I decided to invest in a single starter plant. I rationalized that $24 wasn't too much to pay for a plant that would someday spread into a swath of plants that would make a major contribution to our winter garden. In the meantime, I would choose the location of the single little plant strategically so that I could see and enjoy it on cold winter days while I sip my morning coffee.
So I placed the order on the Plant Delights website, but when I started to check out I was stopped in my tracks by the shipping fee. The cheapest shipping was $21.25 ($40 if I had chosen two-day shipping) for a total of $35.25 for one iris!! Double yowza!! Call me cheap, but I can't convince myself to pay over $20 to ship one plant.
(Okay, now I'm thinking there is a different way of looking at this: Jack's birthday is in March, and I wouldn't think twice about spending $35.25 for a birthday present for him. Wouldn't this iris make a nice gift for his birthday? I could even chose the location and plant it for him . . . . Nah, he would never fall for that. To quote the potential First Gentleman, "that dog won't hunt.")