Photo: Manuel M Ramos (flickr)
Reticulata means “netted,” and this refers to the fibrous netting that covers the bulb. There are many varieties and hybrids, but the narrow leaves always emerge first and grow quickly to about four inches in height. The blooms follow and often coincide with the early crocus.
They enjoy a sunny location and have a range of lovely colors: rich velvety purples, lavenders, maroons, yellows and one variety, ‘Cantab’, is a soft blue.
Especially interesting are the markings. On some of the darker colors, there are gold or white marks on the petals that are referred to as falls. In the flowers of all irises the falls are the petals that spread sideways or droop, and the ones that are turned upward are called the standards.
After these miniature irises bloom, the grass-like foliage dies down in early summer, quite unlike the foliage of any other type of iris.
One of the best reticulates is Iris histrioides because it shrugs off inclement weather. Another good cultivar with deep violet-blue blooms is ’Major’, and ‘Natascha’ is pure white. However, there are many lovely cultivars that can be grown in pots or in rock gardens or in the front of any sunny border.