While all the gardening press are revelling in their annual Snowdrop extravaganza and tales of costly bulbs grow ever taller, my favourite spring bulb quietly puts in an appearance and, on the first suitably warm and sunny day, unfurls petals of the clearest deep blue to display patterning worthy of the classiest stained glass window.
Iris histriodes Lady Beatrix Stanley is a very old variety which is blessed with great vigour and reliability and, once established, will form satisfying clumps in your spring garden. One of her charms is that the flowers come up before the leaves and can therefore be admired in all their beauty. And in addition to looking beautiful, she also smells deliciously of violets.
Plant the bulbs 2-4″ (5-10cm) apart at twice their own depth in well-drained, rich peaty soil in full sun. Top dress the soil with grit so the flowers are not splashed with soil in rain. The final overall height is 6″ (15 cm)
Lady Beatrix Stanley (1877 to 1944) was the youngest daughter of the third Marquess of Headfort and married the Hon. Sir George Stanley, brother of the Earl of Derby in 1903; Beatrix was made a CBE in 1920. While her husband held the position of Governor of Madras from 1929 to 1934, she was actively involved in the development of the gardens at the residency at Ootalamund, exploring the flora of the province, and submitting drawings of her finds to the RHS where they were exhibited at Westminster Hall. Lady Beatrix received the Imperial Order of the Crown of India in 1935. On returning to the family seat at Sibbertoft, Beatrix continued with the development of bulbous plants including the lily family, together with her daughter Lady Barbara, particularly snowdrops that were propagated and distributed from Sibbertoft. Lady Beatrix was a member of the RHS narcissus and tulip committee.
She also has a beautiful snowdrop named after her.