Sunday, March 4, 2012

Eureka! Caucasian iris blooms....

There are plants one waits to grow for a very long time: I have known about this wonderful pale yellow reticulate iris for many a decade. Once or twice I have even been given small bulblets that failed to flourish. Last summer I saw it on a wholesale bulb list for a surprisingly reasonable price (provided you bought fifty that is)....I pooled resources with four other gardeners, and we bought quite a few kinds of bulbs including the requisite fifty Iris winogradowii...and I got ten for my share, five of which so far have shown some color so far, and the one above has been blooming since February 26. If you are not aware, this is one of the rarest irises in the world, only a few hundred of which persist on its alpine home in the Caucasus. It is well established in European gardens, enough so that you can now get these for a few bucks a bulb if you shop around (and buy quantities, that is)...

It is reputedly quite sensitive to heat, so I have placed it on the north slope of my rock garden under towering Scots pines where it grows alongside many ferns, primulas and saxifrages. Here's hoping it likes the spot and clumps up. It's progeny, Iris x 'Katharine Hodgkin', quickly forms dense clumps for me!

Here's a closeup of its cousin, Iris danfordiae, from Turkey. Actually, this is the standard form in cultivation which turns out to be triploid, and therefore sterile. I have found it stays quite perennial and reblooms in my garden planted among Fritillaria, Calochortus other iris and a wealth of other bulbs in my blue gramma grass (Bouteloua gracilis) meadow.

I dote on the purple, blue, lavender and other cool blue hues of typical Iris reticulata and its brethren. What better companion colors for these than yellow? Strike up the melody and bring on the yellow reticulates!


  1. OH, am I ever hearin' your song! Such a BEAUTY....taking deep breaths....

  2. Nice...never heard of that iris. The bearded irises often bloom in the 1st half of April here, but the last several years, who knows? Much to explore in tough bulbs and how to better use them in the all-year garden.

  3. There are dozens of spectacular iris from the Middle and Near east that are spectacular and bloom in winter and very early spring. I am specializing in these of late, David: there have been some great growers of these in New Mexico in the past. Many will thrive for you as well. We need to get you up here in April to see them in their glory!

  4. We've never gotten the hand of cultivating reticulates. They are short-lived, probably because we don't know how to grow them. I thought they wanted lots of heat??
    They've been planted in Lisas bed with the large metal cactus sculptures S- facing. I'd love to grow them well- they did fine in DK of course, and so did the Rhododendrons,...

  5. Aside from I. danfordiae (which I think also needs the company of grasses to siphon excess summer water and perhaps provide some symbiotic something), the reticulates are really alpine plants that do best with lots of irrigation...I have mine in all manner of sites (borders, rock gardens) and they clump up and live forever. Once the clumps get super congested, you can divide them (I do this when they are in full leafage) otherwise they can develop various fungal maladies. They are so cheap, one hardly has to do this! I think these are truly essential garden plants. I have hundreds and really ought to have thousands! I think I. winogradowii would thrive in a shady part of your garden, Jeff (you are cooler than me)...


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