As gardeners, we tend to think that plants like best to grow in rich loam with no competition from other plants. Of course, this is the ideal setting for many, but not all. A few years ago I noticed I had some small iris growing and even spreading in the grass just outside the garden proper. I did not know where that iris came from and what it was until last year when a friend identified it for me.
First, I thought they had to be native since I did not remember planting them, and there was no garden here before we came. It was a meadow where cows had been grazing for decades. There is a small native iris around here, Iris lacustris, but it is smaller than my mystery iris, and tends to grow in drier places.
Last summer we had the visit of two knowledgeable gardeners, and one of them took a picture of this iris to a meeting of the Iris Society where someone was able to tell him that it was Iris sintensisii, of the Spuria iris group.
Where it came from remains a mystery, but the most likely explanation is that I started it from seed I got in a seed exchange and planted it where it is now growing. However I have no recollection of doing it, and it would have gone against my instinct to plant it in the middle of thick grass, even if this is obviously where it wants to grow!
It covers a small section of a slope which is very wet at the bottom (at least in spring and fall), but drier at the top. Apparently sintensisii can grow in both situations. Perhaps I planted it near some Siberian irises I have naturalized in the wet part, and it slowly migrated to higher ground.
It is an attractive small iris, and it produces and unexpected effect growing as it does in thick grass. I am glad it found a place where it likes to grow. It must have taken several years to migrate on its own to where it now prospers. For over ten years we came here only on weekends, and I probably did not notice it for several years. You only notice it when it is in bloom as the leaves are just like grass.