Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Iris histrioides 'Katharine Hodgkin'

Iris histrioides 'Katharine Hodgkin'
Here is a feature for my new favorite rock iris, Iris histrioides 'Katharine Hodgkin'. She is a beauty, especially close up. But she also stands out so well against the damp spring earth. I planted fifty bulbs that I got from John Scheepers last autumn in the Shade Path garden. I had tried Iris reticulata 'Cantab' in this garden the year before, but I found that their medium blue color did not stand out well in the shade.  These I am much happier with their punch... if pastels can punch that is. Perhaps it is more like glowing.

Those who love spring irises know that one reason they stand out as more desirable than crocuses is rock irises open and stay open. This means that even on a gloomy, rainy spring day, they are open to be enjoyed. Crocuses only open when it is sufficiently warm and sunny.

Iris histrioides 'Katharine Hodgkin' open even in the shade of early morning on the Shade Path.
A view of Iris histrioides 'Katharine Hodgkin' in the afternoon sun.
Iris histrioides 'Katharine Hodgkin' are planted on the outside border away from the house for the ease of seeing them through a window on cold or gloomy day in early spring. 
I love this color combination: deep purple Hellebores orientalis, light blue of Iris histrioides 'Katharine Hodgkin' and the medium purple Crocus vernus.
Iris histrioides 'Katharine Hodgkin' with a bit of green ground cover provided by forget-me-not foliage (Myosotis) and Sedum 'Acre', both being early spring risers.
I am thrilled with this variety, even en mass. I do regret however that there is not more green on the ground under this planting. You can tell in the fourth photo that much of the ground is bare with only mulch. I would consider planting these in one of my areas that have a very low growing cover for spring already, such as in my curb strip.  The bulbs would get their sun and then be done before the Sedum 'Acre' really got growing... Or planting the forget-me-nots about more thickly would work for a fix. Clumped by evergreen ferns or Hellebores, they would be a win.

See what else blooms around this time in a Pennsylvania, zone 5 garden by reading about Gilmore Gardens in March.


  1. That light blue color really does glow in the garden - so tiny yet makes a great landscape impact. I would have selected a darker blue myself too, but I see what you mean about the lighter color working better in the shade. I'll have to try that one - thanks for the inspiration!

  2. I'm in love with this iris!
    I planted iris reticulata and, like you, I find the tone a little hard on the shade ..
    in the fall, I'll try to find the same as you.
    To fill in the blanks, I put thoughts, viola.
    These are bi-annual, which occupy the land for a long period.
    There are many colors.
    But I often chose small white: viola cornuta.

  3. your shade path is so pretty! you've sold me on that iris, too...fifty bulbs makes a good statement. i have I. cristata which i love, too, but it's not up this early.

  4. Beautiful iris! Lovely en mass! What a wonderful spring view from a window. Love that deep purple hellebore, too.

  5. Love these wherever they are...I need to plant more as well...they are just so gorgeous!!

  6. Had never thought of putting them in the shade, I have just the place for them, must send in a bulk order in the autumn, thanks!! Your first photograph shows just how beautiful they are, fantastic!

  7. I should get more of these though mine too didn't have any underplanting as they started to flower in January which was 2 months earlier than the previous year. En mass yours in the shade area really brighten it up.

  8. All Iris are beautiful and this one especially so. Thank you for bringing it to my notice, I'll check whether my bulb supplier sells them. Christina

    1. So glad you like it! I do know that Rosie has them in Scotland, so hopefully they are available in Italy as well.

  9. Oh, I'm in love! Thank you for sharing, will have to get this iris for myself. I love buying from John Scheepers as well. All my bulbs are coming up that I planted from them last fall. Will look for this iris, love the hint to yellow. Nancy

  10. I love that little iris! So beautiful!

  11. I love how ghostly they look floating under trees. And your pictures are beautiful, with the sunlight dancing on the petals. Lovely post.


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