Iris reticulata

For most gardeners at the end of the growing season, we are usually pooped and look forward to a break. Who wants to go out in October/November to dig holes even if at the end you can look forward to some flowers when you need it most.  Well, no matter how ready you are for a break from gardening, pick up a net (or two) with the promise of flowers to come.

Iris reticulata is a rock garden plant, meaning they don’t like heavy, wet soils such as clay. They do much better in leaner, well draining soil. If your soil is heavy clay, you can build up your beds with better soil to increase drainage. You can amend an existing bed with some compost. Since most bulbs need to be buried in the ground at twice the depth of the bulb, for Iris reticulata you only need a rather shallow hole. That is way better than digging deep holes. If anything, excavate a very shallow trench and sprinkle in a few bulbs, pointy side up. Cover with dirt. Wait a few months. Then weather improves, spring is almost ready to arrive (March 21st) and there are your flowers. Before spring officially starts, your garden will have little splotches of color. It’s that simple.

Iris reticulata, the first sign of springcrocus and iris reticulata, a splash of color

The plant is small, about 4 to 6 inches, but each flower is large. There are many different colored flowers from white (variety Natasha), yellow (Iris danfordiae), to many different blues and purples. One year at the Philadelphia flower show I saw the prettiest little iris in one of the display gardens. It was called Iris histrioides Katharine Hodgkin and it has a yellow green flower with speckles.

Combined with crocusses, your garden will dazzle with color, just when you need it most. Just as the iris, you buy crocus "bulbs" (or as they are know corms) in the fall. Plant them as soon as possible as you don't want them to dry out. There is also no need to plant these corms deeply. Just dig a shallow hole and position the corms with the pointy side up. Put a whole bunch together for a greater impact.

You can check out the large variety of iris available from this grower, www.johnscheepers.com, as they are a great source of specialty bulbs. I have purchased from them myself in the past and have always been happy with the quality of the bulbs. Come spring, when you are in desparate need of some color in your garden, this little performer will more than fit the bill. Try it, you'll like it.