It’s an uncommon garden plant for 2 good reasons.
- Most gardeners aren’t plant shopping in winter when this iris looks its best.
- Fetid in a name just puts folks off.
It’s sad, really. Stinking Iris is a harsh moniker – – uncalled for, in my humble opinion. Apparently, if you stomp on a clump, the crushed leaves reek of spoiled roast beef. I’ve gardened around it for several years now & have yet to detect any offending odour. Iris foetidissima is very welcome in our garden.
I mean, it’s not the first plant I’d buy for a new garden, but it’s a great supporting actor.
- It’s evergreen.
& year-round structure is coveted in December when pretty much everything else has collapsed to the ground.
- It happily handles the dry conditions under a shady tree where few plants survive.
- Our hungry neighbourhood deer leave it strictly alone. 🙂
& it’s getting harder to find something they won’t eat around here!
The flower is easy to miss. Pale lavender petals open in June & are overshadowed by other, more boisterous blooms. It’s pretty but not spectacular, like so many other iris. I reckon it’d be perfect potted up on a north-facing balcony where little else gives four seasons of interest. Right?
But don’t be too quick to tidy those flower stems!
They morph into heavy seedheads that curl open in autumn with the actual show. 🙂
- Those bright orange berries are just so funky looking!
& it’s so gratifying to have interest through fall & winter.
The seed doesn’t seem to appeal to the birds – – and it turns out to be toxic to cats, dogs & humans… even cattle will sicken if they chew on the roots. So, Scarlet Berry Iris might be an issue if I plant it on the woodland edge of pastureland. I’m surprised cows would take a nibble when the deer clearly don’t.
Iris foetidissima‘s native range is southern Europe & northern Africa. I’ve never heard of it going astray in North America. Still, it’s considered invasive in parts of New Zealand & Australia. I found some berries dropped onto the lawn edge so I tucked them in the soil around the plants. I’d be happy a bigger show next year.