ON THE COVER 6

Reticulata Irises

What They Are

Appearing just after the snowdrops, the reticulata irises are among the most beautiful of early-spring bulbs. They derive their name from the species Iris reticulata, although many named varieties are hybrids with other species, chiefly I. histrioides and I. bakeriana. All are native to mountainous areas of eastern Turkey, Iran, and the Caucasus. Most varieties grow from four to six inches tall and bloom in jewel-like tones of blue and violet (the closely related I. danfordiae and I. winogradowii add yellow to the palette). On warm days, the flowers are delightfully fragrant.

Features of Iris reticulata

Sources

Brent and Becky’s Bulbs 7900 Daffodil Lane, Gloucester, VA 23061 tel: 804-693-3966 www.brentandbeckysbulbs.com/

Paul Christian Rare Plants P.O. Box 468 Wrexham LL 13 9XR, U.K. tel: 011-44-1978-366-399 http://rareplants.co.uk

McClure & Zimmerman 108 W. Winnebago, P.O. Box 368 Friesland, WI 53935-0368 tel: 800-883-6998 www.mzbulb.com

Janis Ruksans Bulb Nursery LV-4150 Rozula, Cesu raj. Latvia Telephone: 011-371-941-84-40

John Scheepers, Inc. 23 Tulip Drive, P.O. Box 638, Bantam CT, 06750 tel: 860-567-0838 www.johnscheepers.com

How to Grow Them

Reticulatas will grow in almost any soil, provided it’s well drained, but do especially well in sandy loam. In their native haunts, they receive plenty of moisture from melted snow in early spring; by late spring, when the leaves begin to turn brown, the soil begins to dry out, although complete dryness, especially in late summer, will result in poor flowering the following year. Reticulatas are not greedy feeders, but do appreciate a light application of low-nitrogen fertilizer at the beginning of the flowering period. Full sun is best, although a half-day of sun is adequate. Many gardeners complain that reticulatas tend to dwindle and disappear fairly quickly in the garden. The best way to counteract this tendency is to space the bulbs generously and to replant them in late summer (in fresh soil, if possible) every two years. Bulbs should be planted two inches deep.

Some of Our Favorites

‘Cantab’: clear, soft, light blue

‘Clairette’: blue with dark-blue-tipped falls

‘George’: deep, rich purple

‘Gordon’: rich blue with a deeper blotch on the falls and orange central ridge

‘Harmony’: rich blue with prominent yellow ridge on falls

‘J. S. Dijt’: reddish violet

‘Kuh e Abr’: a gorgeous newcomer in pure sky blue; hard to find and expensive

‘Natascha’: icy blue; almost white

On the Web

Alan McMurtrie, a Canadian engineer, has been pursuing an energetic hybridization program with reticulatas in recent years. He has produced a wide range of fascinating seedlings, many with atypical flower colors, including white, pale through bright yellow, brown, violet pink, sea green, and blue-yellow blends. Photographs of these intriguing plants (some of which are scheduled to be released commercially) can be seen on his Web site, http://reticulatas.com.

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