'Natascha' Miniature Iris
"In the Spring a livelier iris changes
on the burnish'd dove
In the Spring a young man's fancy
lightly turns to thoughts of love"
-Alfred Lord Tennyson,
We have a drift of late winter-blooming Dwarf Wild Iris which is the natural "blue flag" color, plus we have this cultivar called 'Natascha' which is very unusual in coloration. It is the palest of blues, with green veins & a golden blotch; such pallid beauty makes me think of it as an iris's ghost.
It is shown on this page in full bloom in the first photo in February (2004) & in the second photo in March (2003). The wild blue one blooms first, 'Natascha' shortly after. It was two weeks behind the wild blue in 2003, but scarsely a week behind in 2004.
These want regular watering but extremely well-drained soil during their bloom period. In our zone, regular rainfall is more than sufficient as late winters are pretty rainy. In summer when they have completely died back, they need to be dry to set buds for the following year's show. They must be positioned so as to have excellent drainage, so we've placed ours close along a rockery ledge.
If they dislike their location they will still flower beautifully their first year, but then fade out in the next year or two. If on the other hand they're pleased with their location, they'll naturalize & persist a very long while especially in zones 6 thru 8, possibly 5 through 9.
It doesn't hurt to add a few supplementary bulbs each autumn to insure their persistance, at least for the first three years when the bulbs' numerous offsets will not yet be mature enough to take over & bloom.
This is also a species frequently used for indoor "forcing" in shallow pretty containers, in order to have the flowers in December. Though I. reticulata works well for the purpose, the bulbs are awfully depleted afterward, & might never bounce back if belatedly placed into the garden, so are best discarded.
William van Eeden of Holland developed 'Natascha' from a cross between two variants of the sky-blue 'Cantab.' There's also a 'White Natascha' related to the same strain, for which the interesting color markings are lacking, except the yellow blotch. 'Alba' blooms ahead of 'Natascha,' but they do cross-pollinate easily, so that intermediate 'Natascha' types are common, some being whiter with green veins & yellow blotch, but without the grand flush of pale blue which marks the ideal.
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