Ice Queen

I wrote a post a week ago about Iris reticulata ‘Alida’ entitled ‘Could this be the most photogenic flower?‘.

Its neighbour ‘Katharine Hodgkin’ was still at the bud stage, looking like a paintbrush:

Iris reticulata ‘Katherine Hodgkin’ in bud.

Right on cue, when I was looking over at the blue tits on the bird feeder, boing! This happened!

Iris reticulata ‘Katherine Hodgkin’

They were all a little bit bleary and curled up from their long winter sleep.

Iris reticulata ‘Katherine Hodgkin’

Over the course of the afternoon, the petals uncurled.

Iris reticulata ‘Katherine Hodgkin’

Do you notice something a little strange? This Dwarf iris does not produce spikes of leaves before its flower. It is pure, unadulterated flower!

Iris reticulata ‘Katherine Hodgkin’

Each is a little ice sculpture.

Iris reticulata ‘Katherine Hodgkin’

It is the elusive colour that makes this Dwarf Iris so unusual and so alluring.

Iris reticulata ‘Katherine Hodgkin’

The upright ‘standard’ petals have blue ink swirls on white, with the thickness of the stripes varying. They are all soft undulation.

Iris reticulata ‘Katherine Hodgkin’

The ‘fall’ petals have some darker blue spots and a splodge of yellow, which fades around the edges. The ‘hood’ looks like angel wings on the flower below. It is soft delicacy and cold purity combined. An Ice Queen.

Iris reticulata ‘Katherine Hodgkin’

You can see the intricacy of the markings here. It reminds me of a school chromatography experiment when we made an ink spot on blotting paper and then dipped it in water. The pigments in the ink slowly separated and spread out over the blotting paper.

Iris reticulata ‘Katherine Hodgkin’

When all of the flowers open fully, you see more yellow from the fall petals, and the combination of yellow and blue can give the impression of palest turquoise. But only if you squint a bit.

I thought I’d just try to capture all three of these pots on my back step together. Next year I think the middle one will be filled with Narcissi, rather than tulips, so that I get three pots flowering together.

Iris reticulata ‘Katherine Hodgkin’ with Iris reticulata ‘Alida’ behind.

Just so she doesn’t feel left out, here is ‘Alida’ again. Oh, I love her too. Whilst ‘Katharine Hodgkin’ is icy sophistication, ‘Alida’ is a blue sky on a sunny February day.

Iris reticulata ‘Alida’

I love it with the Moroccan blue pot behind.

Iris reticulata ‘Alida’

Which one do you prefer?


Iris reticulata bulbs are planted in the autumn. I chose a terracotta pot that is fairly shallow and wide, but you can use any container. I mixed multipurpose compost with horticultural grit and planted the bulbs in two layers. They should be planted at least twice the depth of the bulb, but you can go deeper. Then I topped the pot with a couple of centimetres of grit, to deter moss or weeds from growing.


38 Comments Add yours

  1. Iris reticulata ‘Katherine Hodgkin,’ the markings and colour are beautiful. Like they have been painted.

    1. Isn’t it incredible? There are endless wonders in the world of flowers!

  2. Rachel Foster says:

    I love how you have chosen to display them. Their colours really stand out but also blend beautifully with the grit. Very pretty and beautiful photos as ever.😊

    1. Even nicer is bark chippings – I saw this at Sissinghurst last year. I just couldn’t find a nice little size of bark chipping when I was potting these up!

  3. adminedno says:

    beautiful and you know – i quite like the contrast of standing the tulips pot full of promises against the full blown flowers

    1. Yes, I think you are right, and I like the undulating leaves of the tulip against the very upright stalks of iris. I love the glaucous blue tinge to tulip leaves, which does look lovely with blue irises.

  4. Ms. Liz says:

    If I was to choose just one, it would be Aleda!

    1. Yes, this is my favourite too. Whilst I love the subtlety of Katharine, I just love the depth of colour in ‘Alida’.

  5. Chloris says:

    Katherine is lovely but then all these little irises are divine and so intensely coloured it is difficult to pick a favourite. I love them in pots so you can get up close and intimate.

    1. That is what I have thoroughly enjoyed, Chloris. Hurray for pots!

  6. Emma Cownie says:

    Beautiful photos – I especially like the tiny drops of water on the petals!

    1. They are lovely, aren’t they? This is why I like taking photos early in the morning, when the dew is still clinging to leaves and petals.

  7. croftgarden says:

    One of our favourites which we have grown in pots for many years. We now have them planted in a bed in the fruit cage (for shelter) and they were in flower on 1 January!
    If you have a sheltered corner, do try some in the garden.

    1. I will – I am going to plant these out into the garden once they have finished flowering – it’s always worth a try, isn’t it?

      1. croftgarden says:

        Absolutely. so often plants do bette in the ground than in pots.

  8. So beautiful! I love these especially because of the color. This is my favorite shade of blue 💖🌱

    1. Aw, that is nice to know. That colour will be ‘Lisa Blue’ now!

  9. Christina says:

    ALL Iris are so beautiful, I can’t think of one that I don’t like.

    1. Me neither! I need to grow more.

  10. Heyjude says:

    Katherine is very pretty in a cool way, Alida though is Mediterranean sky and so I love her more. Mine are all but finished now, they don’t last long do they 😦
    Next year I shall try a few different ones, these little irises could become an obsession!

  11. Delicately beautiful blues Ali. How they must bring you sure delight. Thank you for sharing your spring lovelies with us.

  12. Ann Mackay says:

    You caught a little piece of magic there…beautiful! I love both of those irises…..and I reckon I need to reserve a pot or two for some next year. 🙂

    1. I think I will grow at least a couple pots every year from now.

  13. bcparkison says:

    Aren’t they pretty? And they appear just like our naked ladies (lycoris radiata). Yes I had to look up the real name .

    1. Wow! What I lovely flower – I just looked it up. Love that you are using the latin name! xxx

  14. They do scream out to be photographed. Lovely flowers.

    1. They were a delight to photograph.

  15. Jo Shafer says:

    I felt a surge of hope and promise when I saw your first photo, admired its subtle stripes, then delighted at the fulfillment of the promise. Lately I’ve been think BLUE as I bring out a few of my blue & white porcelain urns and fill them with (ahem) faux irises and white orchids. Gotta do something to combat all this white stuff outside!

    1. That is so lovely to hear, Jo. I hope you are keeping warm inside!

  16. Rupali says:

    The sequence of images is so delightful.

    1. Yes, it is nice to have a little set, isn’t it?

  17. By the way, Ali, I have a large blue urn similar to yours, glazed terra cotta, left half-filled with soil and leaves. It’s where I usually place a large Boston fern for summers on the patio.

    1. Ooh lovely. I’m not sure what I will put in mine this year. Maybe some salvia and verbena.

      1. Plants trailing over the top edge would be lovely with your salvia and/or verbena to lend a grace note, perhaps something with a contrasting leaf shape. I like English ivy underplanting geraniums, for example.

  18. That’s it, I’m definitely getting iris bulbs this fall!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s