With apologies to Kate Bush, today we have iris ‘Katharine Hodgkin’. I am delighted to have her delicate and bright flowers in the garden but it has taken a long time: more than 40 years.
This, now common, iris was introduced in 1958 by the bulb expert E B Anderson and named after the wife of fellow enthusiast Eliot Hodgkin. It is a hybrid of pale yellow I. winogradowii and blue Iris histrioides. The flowers combine the colour of both and are supposedly fragrant but it has been cold and frosty and I can’t confirm this. What I can confirm is that it is tough and hardy.
I first planted this when I was in my late teens and I bought a single bulb and planted it in a hypertufa trough. The one bulb cost me £5 (about £20 today)! At the time it was very rare and desirable. I watched the bud slowly emerge and the day it was due to open I discovered that a caterpillar had eaten it overnight. I was gutted and have not planted her since. But with my big raised beds completed in autumn I bought a pack of ten – for less than the cost of my one bulb. And they have opened without being attacked by anything, so far.
Like all the reticulata iris, this likes well-drained soil, sun and prefers some lime in the soil. I have sprinkled a little lime around them to try to make them happy. I won’t say this is always the case but she seems to bloom several weeks later than pure reticulata kinds.
Another ‘bulb’ that has just opened in these beds is crocus ‘Blue Marlin’. I don’t know anything about this apart from that I believe it is ‘quite new’. It is a Crocus chrysanthus hybrid. I like these because of the globular flowers, the wide range of colours and their honey scent. The leaves have been up for weeks and I was wondering if any flowers were ever going to appear but they are starting now and are as lovely as I had hoped.