Iris 'Katharine Hodgkin'

Unlike its larger cousins the rhizomatous, perennial flag and bearded irises, Iris reticulata 'Katharine Hodgkin' is an exquisite dwarf ornamental, flowering specimen that is produced from a bulb rather than a tuberous rootstock.

Iris 'Katharine Hodgkin'
It will grow to approximately to 12cm in height, with mid-green, narrow leaves appearing in late winter which are followed by erect flower-bearing stems in early spring  Each bloom comprises of 3 large spreading or pendent petals, which are alternated by a further 3 erect, often smaller, regular petals.

Considering the size of the plant the flowers are comparatively large at approximately 10 cm wide. They are a creamy, pale-blue in colour and decorated with a pattern of deeper blue veins. There is also a patch of yellow at the base of the petals which is significantly marked with small, dark-blue blotches. The leaves will noticeably elongate after flowering.

Like other Iris reticulata cultivars, Iris 'Katharine Hodgkin' will perform best in a moist, but more importantly well-drained neutral or slightly alkaline soil in full sun. Plant the bulbs approximately 8 cm-10 cm deep in the autumn as they will require a cold period to help initiate flowering. If your soil is heavy and wet then improve with plenty of organic matter or horticultural grade grit otherwise the bulbs will be at risk from fungal rots

Iris 'Katharine Hodgkin'
To ensure a good flowering display the following spring allow the bulbs to dry out in the ground over the summer. Do not be tempted to water.

Pre-packed bulbs are available for planting in the autumn but always avoid bulbs that are either dry and shrivelled or soft and squashy. If this opportunity is missed then pot-grown specimens come available in the early spring. Iris 'Katharine Hodgkin' will do just as well as part of a rock garden or grown as a container plant. However it is advisable to bring pot-grown specimens under protection if the rootball become at risk of freezing,

Iris reticulata 'Katharine Hodgkin' was created by amateur plant breeder Bertram Anderson in the early 1960's. It was named after the wife of fellow plant enthusiast, Eliot Hodgkin.

Iris 'Katharine Hodgkin' received its Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1996.

For related articles click onto the following links:
THE HAPPY ALIEN PLANT - Calceolaria uniflora
TELEGRAPH: How to grow reticulate irises
WINTER ACONITE - Eranthis hyemalis

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