This little bulb (named after the netlike coat of fibres which protects the bulb itself) is one of the best-loved of all irises, giving pleasure out of all proportion to its size – it is only a few inches tall. Its velvety blueflecked with gold arrive in very early spring, and are heavily scented.
It is quite hardy and increases fast in well-drained, preferably alkaline soil – a few bulbs planted 3 inches (7.5 cm) deep and 4 inches (10 cm) apart in autumn will form an established colony in a year or two.
Being so small, do not let the irises get swamped in a large border. Perhaps you have a narrow bed by the house where they would be more conspicuous. They are also ideal for the rock garden, or for raised troughs, where they can be seen and sniffed near eye-level. Several varieties are available, ranging from light blue to dark purple.
After flowering, thepresent a problem, for they grow very tall and grassy and are something of an eyesore, and must not, of course, be cut down. A light, non-strangulating ground-cover might be planted nearby, such as the pink-flowered Geranium endressii.
In her epic poem The Land. Vita Sackville-West honoured /. reticulata as one of the earliest flowers of the year.
For no new flowers shall be born Save hellebore on Christmas morn, And bare gold jasmine on the wall, And violets, and soon the small Blue netted iris, like a cry Startling the sloth of February.