The striking dwarf Iris reticulata flowers in February. It kicks off the bulb season beautifully and brings the hope of spring to any garden. These charming irises compete with snowdrops and crocuses as they all emerge around the same time. Originating from the Middle East they do best in well drained conditions where they experience a warm dry summer. The classic icy blue ‘Katharine Hodgkin’ was bred in 1955 by EB Anders, a former member of the RHS and joint Rock Garden Plant Committee. Iris leaves are long and narrow with flowers in purple, white,blue and a hint of yellow variations of colour and they are typically fragrant. They work well in troughs, under trees and even indoors in a shallow bowl. Dress the bulbs once planted with a layer of grit to keep slugs and snails off. Plant in Autumn – twice the depth of the bulb. Alan MCMurtrie, a Canadian Iris breeder, was fascinated by the bulb after a trip to Switzerland in 1979. He has achieved an outstanding job of breeding them and dedicated 30 years of his life doing so. It is thanks to Alan we now have breathtaking colours and patterns never seen before.
Some notable new hybrids to try are:
Iris ‘Velvet Smile’
Iris ‘Sea Green’
Iris ‘Spot On’