Thursday, March 8, 2018

The dwarf winter irises

Have you ever bought a packet of the dwarf, winter flowering irises, planted them out in a nice sunny spot in Autumn, watched them flower the first year and then dwindle away?  If that's the case you're not alone.  It's a common lament amongst gardeners.  No wonder we treat beauties such as Iris reticulata 'Katherine Hodgkin' as temporary treats, re-bought annually.

Iris reticulata 'Katherine Hodgkin'
At The Garden House they treat them a little differently.  The Bulb Meadow is an area of the garden on a North facing slope, well drained with the addition of grit to the underlying shale soil, and annually mulched with shredded bracken from local Dartmoor farms.  Summer herbaceous planting - hardy geraniums and begonias - ensure the roots remain cool and dry and this enables the bulbs to increase rather than diminish year on year.  They're also grown in cool beds that will be shaded by shrubs in the summer.  It's a policy also advocated by Broadleigh Bulbs, a prominent UK grower of these pretty little treasures.

The net result is a display of these winter treasures that recurs year after year.  Long may it continue.

Iris reticulata 'Katherine Hodgkin'

Iris reticulata 'Alida'
Iris histrioides 'Angel's Tears'

Iris histrioides 'George'