Iris reticulata Katharine Hodgkin

posted in: Gardening | 25
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
Iris reticulata Katharine Hodgkin
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.

Iris reticulata Katharine Hodgkin Parentage

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). 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. Then 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 they 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.

Iris reticulata Katharine Hodgkin Merits

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. This time plant them nearer the house so that I can admire the beautiful blooms from indoors as well as outdoors.
Follow Rosie Nixon:

Photography Tutor and Gardener

Rosie is a garden photographer, writer and nature lover. She enjoys soaking up nature and is easily distracted from doing the weeding by anything that flutters, flies, buzzes, creeps or crawls! She enjoys sharing the beauty of creation through her photography. Rosie has been featured on TV on BBC2's The Beechgrove Garden and she uses the outdoors as her natural light studio. Her work can be seen at one of Scotland's only photography galleries - Close Gallery, 4b Howe Street, Edinburgh. She also writes and shares her nature images on

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25 Responses

  1. ann

    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. Susan

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

  3. Jayne

    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.

  4. HolleyGarden

    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!

  5. kanak7

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

  6. Andrea

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

  7. Gerry Snape

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

  8. NellJean

    Beautiful photos, lovely irises.

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

  9. JWLW

    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,

  10. Cheryl

    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??

  11. Curbstone Valley Farm

    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.

  12. AaronVFT

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

  13. Alistair

    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.

  14. Lucy

    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.


  15. Pam's English Garden

    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

  16. Gail

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

  17. KF

    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!