Q – I want to put some plants that will flower in winter at the base of a garden statue what do you suggest to make an impact and cheer me up during the winter months?

A – Of all the flowers of winter to plant at the base of a garden statue Iris Unguicularis must be one of the best. It is so heartening to fall across its brave little flowers on a cold, dank winter’s day. Just when its grassy tuffs of foliage look dull and uninspiring, through the browning leaves thrust little batches of exquisite richly coloured lilac-lavender flowers. When picked in bud and taken indoors, encouraged by the heat of a fire these delicate blooms will soon pop open and fill a room with their delicious scent.

To get the best from Iris Unguicularis you need to plant it against a hot sunny wall in poor dry soil and then just leave it alone unless you want to split it, when it gets larger, to make more plants. The oldest variety and most famous is ‘Walter Butt’ which is very free-flowering with pale lilac flowers. There is also the rarer dark purple‘Mary Banard’ and a white strain know as ‘Bowles White’.