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.
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.
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.