Below Iris kaempferi

This handsome beardless ins lor moist soil at the edges ot a pond has been bred in Japan to produce a wide range of flower forms and cofoure ounng early summer.

Above: Iris reticulata Jeanlne

This is a reliable bulbous ins for a rock garden or front of a border, flowering in late winter and early spring li is suitable for chalky soil.

Iris reticulata

This well-known, small, bulbous iris is Ideal for a rock garden or the front Of a border. It is now available in a range of colours, but the true species is blue and violet, with or without orange blazes on the falls (the lower, drooping petals). Flowers appear during late winter and early summer. Good forms to look for include 'Cantab' (light blue), 'Clairette' (sky-blue). Royal Blue' [deep blue) and Jeanine' (violet blue) Cultivation: Light, well-drained chalky soil in full sun or light shade suits it Plant fresh bulbs in autumn, covering them with a 5-7 5cm (2-3in) layer of soli This attractive bulb can also be grown indoors, but the plants should not be taken inside until the flower buds show colour. They are better grown in a cold greenhouse or conservatory Propagation: It iseasily increased by lifting and dividing large clumps in late summer or earty autumn. Large bulbs can be replanted, while smaller ones should be planted in a nursery bed and grown on torafew years until large enough to set out in their final, flowering positions.

Iris reticulata otends with many early spring-flowering plants such as the Snowdrop [Galanthus nivalis; the yellow-flowered shrub Mahonia ¡aponica and the Corsican Hellebore [Helleborus lividus corsicus).

Above: Iris reticulata Jeanlne

This is a reliable bulbous ins for a rock garden or front of a border, flowering in late winter and early spring li is suitable for chalky soil.

(Ldhospermum diffusum]

Below Pontederia cordata

This eye-catching North Amencan water plant brings height and colour late in summer Eventually it forms a large dump, with purple-blue flowers

Above Lithodora diffusa Grace Ward'

This is a beautiful prostrate plant tor a rock garden, cascading over rocks to form a large mat of colour This form produces intense blue flowers from mid-summer to early autumn

Lithodora diffusa

(Ldhospermum diffusum]

This superb hardy, spreading, mat-forming perenmalfor a rock garden, is often better known by its previous botanical name, even though this has been superseded. Thecreeping stems are covered with small, oval, dark green leaves, and the tive-lobed 12mm {.';,inj wide, deep blue flowers appear from mid summer to early autumn Two varieties are widely available Heavenly Blue [deep bluej and Grace Ward [a beautiful intense blue) Height: 7 5-10cm (3-4in) Spread: 45-60cm (1 V2ft) Cultivation: Light, well-drained, slightly acid soil rich in leafmould or peaf suits it best, and a position in full Sun will ensure success. Propagation: It is not easy to increase, the exact time for taking the cuttings being critical Take W-5cmaV2J4«n) long heel cuttings after the first week in mid-summer I riser! them in boxes of equal parts peal and Sharp sand and place in a cold frame Ensure that the compost does not become dry.

Right Muscari armeniacum

This stunningly attractive blue bulbous plant for spring colour, ideal for naturalizing under deciduous shrubs or as a path edging, is a native of Turkey and the Caucasus

Below Pontederia cordata

This eye-catching North Amencan water plant brings height and colour late in summer Eventually it forms a large dump, with purple-blue flowers

Lithodora diffusa can be used with other prostrate plants, such as Helianthemum nummulanum Beech Park Scarlet" and the blue-purple Campanula portenschlagiana

Muscari armeniacum is a superb companion for Primroses and polyanthus. Anemone bienda can be added lo this trio and they can all be sei iiKe a mult ¡-coloured ruff around a spring-flowering Iree

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