Sunday, April 3, 2011

Iris reticulata 'Katharine Hodgkin'

I had a favourite bulb in the garden this year and one whose blooms  were greatly admired by passers by.  Before many of the other early spring flowering bulbs were in flower the  little Iris reticulata 'Katharine Hodgkin' was gracing the borders with her beauty and keeping the early bumble bees happy.

Iris reticulata "Katharine Hodgkin" flowers

Only about 4 or 5 inches from the ground she had the most delicate of  blue patterned strips stretching into the warm hues of the yellow falls and dark blue blotches.


She's a bulb that has an interesting history. Mr E B Anderson was a plant enthusiast during the 40's, 50's and 60's.  In 1955  he crossed the rare Iris winogradowii (yellow) with Iris histrioides (pale blue) and from that pollination only 2 plants grew. Five years later one of the bulbs flowered and he named it after the wife of fellow plant enthusiast, Eliot Hodgkin. He grew his under a plum tree in his Lower Slaughter garden in Gloucestershire and  shared her offspring with many other gardeners.  Thanks to all of his pass alongs decades later these little bulbs are very reasonably priced.

Iris reticulata "Katharine Hodgkin" blooms

Planting Position and Feeding Requirements

I planted mine last Autumn in the warmest part of the garden where the soil is quite gritty and close to the main pathway where the bulbs will be quite dry in the summertime.  They survived temperatures of -18c this winter covered in snow so are a good choice for a Perthshire garden.  The bulbs were planted in the soil about 3 or 4 times the height of the bulb just in case the cats dug them up and about 5 cm's apart.  

Flowering has just finished so I'm going to be feeding the bulbs with a potash fertilizer to encourage  the iris to form larger bulbs for next year. Once the flowers die back the leaves become more elongated but like all bulbs  don't cut the leaves down no matter how untidy they look in the border.  Let them die back naturally as all the goodness is going back down into next years bulbs especially if you have been foliar feeding.


The RHS gave this bulb an award of merit and describe it as being.....

'Dwarf bulbous iris to 12cm tall, with large pale blue flowers, the falls heavily veined with deeper blue and marked yellow at the base, and slender leaves elongating after flowering.'

This autumn I want more of this little bulb in my garden and this time plant them nearer the house so that I can admire the beautiful blooms from indoors as well as outdoors.  

Blue Lightening

by Rosie leavesnbloom

Iris reticulata "Katharine Hodgkin" bulb
My own artistic impression of Iris reticulata "Katharine Hodgkin"

What bulbs are on your wish list this year? 

Interested in this topic? You might enjoy another article I’ve written called:

Enjoyed this post? Get more just like it by subscribing to my RSS feed and by email.  
Enter your email address:
Subscribe to my RSS feed through feedly for free
Or follow on Feedly

Like this post?  Be awesome and share it!  
It only takes a moment to click a handy button below and share with others.


  1. What a stunning little iris. I wonder if it would grow in Colorado? I have a bit dwarf iris that were in my husband's grandmother's yard that I have moved each time we moved. They are just little purple iris. What bulbs are on my wish list? Double asian lilies. cheers. ann

  2. That sure is a beautiful and unique iris with an interesting history! Wonderful photos, as always!

  3. That is one beautiful iris! I am partial to blues in the garden.

    Enjoy ~ FlowerLady

  4. What a delightful bulb, the coloring is quite beautiful. I'm really a novice when it comes to bulbs, so I don't have any on my wish list.

  5. I just added this one to my wish

  6. I don't think I've ever seen an iris that has blue stripes with yellow on it like that. Very striking! I need to make a note of this bulb - I would love to see it in my garden. I don't know what will be on my list this year - last year I planted a lot of different bulbs, so I'll see what does well and then make my list!

  7. Took my breath away! This must be the most beautiful iris I have ever seen!

  8. Hi Rosie, that iris lily is certaily a scene stealer, people will really give several reapeat looks to it.

  9. That Iris - she's a stunner. The veining is a work of art, like your last image :)

  10. what a stunning little plant! And thankyou for all of the interesting info on how it came about.

  11. Beautiful photos, lovely irises.

    I tried Iris reticulata. It isn't happy in my garden. I think it likes more cold than we provide.

  12. Oh, she is a gorgeous flower.I love blue and yellow together. Lovely!

  13. Rosie, that's a beautiful flower. I am now looking at sources in the US. Found one and will be ordering. Thanks for sharing.

    Have a wonderful day,

  14. I grow this sweet iris in my garden and I agree with you it is lovely. You can't have too many blues in a garden, can you??

  15. A stunning Iris Rosie! The blue really is a true blue, not the typical violet blue seen on so many Iris. A truly unique, and elegant flower, that I've never seen before.

  16. What a beauty! Thanks for sharing the pictures and information.

  17. WOW! Never knew iris had such a beautiful shade of blue. Love the details on the delicate petals.

  18. Rosie, I have never seen this reticulata before or if I have I certainly did not give it the attention it deserves. I was recently going on about my disappointment at the reticulata harmony only surviving the one season in our garden. Today I spotted a few of them in a planter in the front garden which I have no recollection of planting.

  19. Rosie, This is another absolutely stunning shot. The edited one is like a beautiful water colour painting.

    I've put a link to your blog in my current post so that others can come admire such beauties;

  20. I think I must be brash because although these are pretty, I very much prefer the brighter purple and yellow little iris.

    The photograph of the yellow one is delightful.


  21. Rosie, I love the color in the first image. I also like the look of your blog too.

  22. Dear Rosie, Breathtakingly beautiful! I am sorry I haven't visited lately, but for some unknown reason, your latest posts are not appearing in my blog roll. I'll check with Google to see why. P x

  23. I have never seen an iris with those colors. The first image is just exquisite Rosie.

  24. A pale beauty...Thank you for the pot ash hint!~I might have better success in the future. gail

  25. This beautiful iris flowered on 2nd February after being planted in my Cheltenham garden last autumn. I love the fact that it started life about 16 miles from here, in Lower Slaughter, three years after I was born!


If you liked this article please retweet and share with your friends. You're welcome to share some of your own experiences in the comments and I'll catch up with you over the next few days! All comments are moderated before publishing so if you place a link in your comment it will go into the spam filter and your comment won't get published. If the comment form doesn't work you can always leave one on facebook or google plus



Copyright 2009 - 2015 All Rights Reserved Leavesnbloom Gardening and Nature | Perthshire, Scotland, UK