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Iris 'Katharine Hodgkin'

Iris 'Katharine Hodgkin'

With its unusual pale blue and yellow colouring, this charming dwarf iris really stands out from the crowd. Find it flowering this month in the Wild Garden, and around the Rock Garden under the bonsai'd larch tree, and in the new Winter Walk around Seven Acres.

Vital statistics

Common name
Iris 'Katharine Hodgkin'
Family
Iridaceae
Height & spread
Up to 12cm (5in)
Form
Bulbous perennial
Soil
Moist, neutral to alkaline
Aspect
Partial shade
Hardiness
Fully hardy

Iris

Found in a wide range of habitats in the Northern hemisphere, this genus includes about 300 species.

The leaves are sword-shaped and sometimes variegated, and the flowers have six tepals (a word used for sepals or petals when they are not easily distinguished) and occur in a rainbow of colours.

Irises have been cultivated since the reign of the Egyptian pharaoh Thutmosis I, in about 1500 BC. They are usually grown for their distinctive flowers which bloom in spring and summer. The taller cultivars are suitable for mixed or herbaceous borders, the smaller ones for rock gardens, raised beds and troughs and water irises for the margins of pools and streams. A few are not frost hardy and need protection under glass.

Irises are divided into Rhizomatous and Bulbous groups and the former group is subdivided into Bearded, Beardless and Crested irises.

Iris 'Katharine Hodgkin'

This very vigorous and resilient Reticulata bulbous iris produces delicately marked pale blue and yellow flowers in late winter, and looks good with dwarf daffodils, crocus, and anemones.

Although easy to grow, the bulbs increase more rapidly in a cold frame or bulb frame than outdoors.

This iris was introduced in 1958 and named after the wife of Eliot Hodgkin, a grower of rare bulbs.

Cultivation

  • Grow in well-drained, neutral or slightly alkaline soil in full sun.
  • Keep just moist during dormant period.
  • After flowering, feed with a high potash fertilizer to encourage large bulbs to form.
  • Slugs and snails may be a problem, as may grey mould (Botryris) and thrips.

Propagation

  • Plant Reticulata bulbs 5-10cm apart at a depth twice the height of the bulb, or deeper.
  • Lift and separate bulbs in early autumn.
  • Sow seed in containers in a cold frame in autumn or spring.

AGM

The RHS Joint Iris Committee awarded Iris 'Katharine Hodgkin' an Award of Garden Merit in 1996 and described it as:

'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.'

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