Monday, May 24, 2010

Harlequin Blue RHS Plant of the Year at Chelsea Flower Show

A bi-colored version of a popular houseplant, Streptocarpus ‘Harlequin Blue’, has been named RHS Plant of the Year at Chelsea Flower Show.

Iris versicolor, commonly known as the Harlequin Blueflag the Blue Flag Iris and other variations of those names, is a species of Iris native to North America where it is common in sedge meadows, marshes, and along stream-banks and shores.

Harlequin Blue species is primarily utilized for its brightly colored floral display. The root mass of established colonies provides good shoreline protection. Although the seed is large and kernel-like, there is no documentation of wildlife consumption; the root stock is fed upon by aquatic rodents.

A graceful, sword leaved plant similar to the garden iris, with showy, down-curved, violet, boldly veined sepals. Several violet-blue flowers with attractively veined and yellow-based sepals are on a sturdy stalk among tall sword-like leaves that rise from a basal cluster. Flowers may be any shade of purple, but are always decorated with yellow on the falls. It grows 2 to 3 feet tall.

The selection Harlequin Blue bears relatively large lavender-blue flower heads on dense compact plants from late spring to early fall. Singly borne on long slender peduncles that emerge from the bases of the dissected stem leaves, the flat round flower heads have fringed edges and a central bristle of protruding stamens. The wiry flower stems arise from a basal clump of scalloped oval gray-green leaves. Butterflies and hummingbirds flock to the blooms and insects attracted to the sepals must crawl under the tip of a style and brush past a stigma and stamen, thus facilitating pollination.

This charming and easy perennial grows best in full sun and fertile well-drained acid to alkaline soil. Deadhead regularly leads to encourage continued bloom. A splendid companion for summer-blooming campanulas, veronicas, foxgloves, and verbascums, it is a natural for perennial borders and cottage gardens. The long-lasting blooms are perfect for cutting. It self-sows freely and may become a pest in some gardens.