Irresistible Little Irises


The dwarf irises which usually flower later in February have all come out early this year. The first to bloom is as usual Iris danfordiae in lovely deep yellow.  If you peer down its throat you can see it has green spots on its tonsils.You have to buy new ones each year because like the giant lily: Cardiocrinum giganteum the bulbs split up into tiny non-flowering bulblets. I suppose you could grow these on and indeed I have done this with the giant lily but I have never bothered with the iris they are so cheap to buy.


I love the combination of pale blue and yellow with dark purple spots on Iris Katharine Hodgkin. It is a cross between Iris danfordiae  and the tough little Iris histrioides.  It is beautiful and with a bit of tender care you can keep it going for several years.


A very similar iris has been bred with the same parents. It is Iris histrioides Sheila Ann Germaney. It has a much narrower yellow strip and doesn’t have the dark spots. It is just as beautiful though.  There is some confusion about the parentage of these two irises. Some authorities say they must be the offspring of Iris histrioides and the delicate pale  yellow Iris winogradowii.


Iris reticulata which means the netted iris because it has a fibrous net round the bulb comes in many lovely shades of blue and purple. They all have  lovely markings on the falls. I love the deep wine colour of Iris reticulata  ‘Pauline’ with the white and purple tips to the ends of the falls.


My favourite is  Iris reticulata ‘Halkis’. This beauty was found in 1990 in Turkey. It has scented flowers and a winning combination of  sky blue  with inky purple falls with a yellow flash.


Most of these lovely irises are widely available, although ‘Halkis’ may take  a bit of seeking out.  One of the most commonly found is the lovely Iris ‘Harmony’ which is such  a gorgeous shade of blue.


If  you want your dwarf irises to come back year after year it is essential that they have good drainage and a semi-shaded spot. I give them plenty of gravel mixed up with their soil. They must be planted deep to do well and I give them a high potash fertiliser when they have finished flowering. They are also great for pots as many of them are delicately perfumed and you don’t always want to get on your hands and knees to sniff them in February.

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27 Responses to Irresistible Little Irises

  1. Pauline says:

    They are such lovely flowers, obviously I had to buy Pauline for the garden here! I hadn’t realised that they like part shade, I have mine on what we call the alpine scree in full sun, maybe they would like the slope at the end of the woodland which gets quite a lot of sun before the canopy closes over? They would look nice with the snowdrops that are out now.

    • Chloris says:

      I always used to grow them in full sun until I read on the RHS website that they need partial shade. I think the most important things are good drainage and they must be planted deeply to stop the bulbs splitting up after flowering.. Pauline is a lovely lady I wondered if you had her.

  2. Annette says:

    Pauline is a rather pretty girl, Chloris. Katherine has been living quite happily in my Swiss mountain garden these past years. In my new plot I haven’t planted any Iris yet which seems a shame when I look at the colour explosion in your garden. It’s nice to have flowers at this time of year. Did some weeding and cutting back yesterday…felt so good but now we’re back to the rain. 😦 Have a nice weekend!

  3. Chloris says:

    I love the colours of Katherine, she is exquisite. We have had the odd bit of sunshine but the ground here is too wet to do much. It seems the rain is going to be all over Europe next week..
    Have a nice weekend too, Try to keep dry..

  4. rusty duck says:

    I thought Katherine Hodgkin was my favourite until I saw Halkis. It’s on my list to try to establish them on the sloping bank where hopefully they will have sufficient drainage.

  5. Chloris says:

    Halkis is lovely. But they are all gorgeous. Next year I am going to get more different ones. Nothing else gives you such jewel clouds at this time of the year.

  6. Flighty says:

    I’m not a great fan of irises but I do like that last one ‘Harmony’. xx

  7. Anna says:

    Mine are not yet showing colour Chloris so it’s most cheering to see yours up and about. I have fallen for ‘Halkis’ which I’ve not come across before. It’s gone straight on the wish list 🙂

  8. Chloris says:

    I am surprised to see them so early this year. I do have some others which are not quite out yet. Halkis is worth looking out for.

  9. I really like the look of Iris Harmony for its good strong colour. I have yet to be successful with these little gems but I think I shall head to Potten End Nursery near me to see if I can get hold of them. If at first you don’t succeed, try try, again!

  10. Chloris says:

    It really is worth it Doris even if you have to replace them every other year. They are a delight on a cold winter’s day.

  11. Cathy says:

    Pauline in particular is beautiful – does she need special attention? Not sure if I want to replace bulbs every year…

  12. Kris P says:

    I’ve been thinking that I need to try some of the smaller Iris, like I. reticulata. After seeing your ‘Halkis,’ I think I MUST try them next year.

  13. Chloris says:

    Halkis is my favourite, Kris but they are all beautiful.

  14. I feel a trip to Ashwood nursery looming, after reading your article! On my last, very rushed, visit I noticed their display of dwarf irises, but didn’t have time to browse (tragedy!). I must put that right asap. I will be keeping a look out for “Halkis”. I agree with your other readers – it’s so beautiful! And unusual too!

  15. Chloris says:

    If you go to Ashwood you will come away with more than a few Iris! They do have the most gorgeous Hellebores, if you buy some I hope you will show us.

  16. I don’t grow iris in the gardens here (something that really should be remedied as I have the perfect shady spot for them, a corner of the gardens that I’m slowly developing) but I have the joy of seeing dozens of iris blooming in the walled garden at Capel Manor … and you’re right, they are an exquisite and uplifting sight!

  17. Chloris says:

    They are a wonderful sight on a cold February day. You get the chance to see different varieties at Capel Manor I expect, how wonderful.

  18. Julie says:

    I have just popped over on the recommendation of Cathy from Rambling in the Garden, after posing an identification question on my blog. I think you have provided the answer as Iris reticulata Harmony. I would be really grateful if you could have a look at my post and let me know if you agree. You can find the post at, under In A Vase On Monday – Iris Time.

    • Julie says:

      Thank you so much for help in identifying my little iris flowers! I have just had a closer look at all the varieties you are growing and think I need to grow some of the pale blue ones next year. Both of your varieties look lovely.

  19. Chloris says:

    There are so many and they are all lovely. I have some others which I have not shown because they are still not out yet. Iris histrioides is easier to keep going than Iris reticulata if you can find it.

  20. Christina says:

    These Iris are one of my favourite flowers, I’m going to search out some other colours as yours are very beautiful.

  21. Chloris says:

    You must have been leaving this comment about my Irises at the very same moment that I was commenting on yours. How spooky!
    I am growing to grow more different ones next year too. I have some that are still not out so they are giving me pleasure for ages.

  22. Pingback: Garden Jobs To Do This Week | Peonies & Posies

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