This Iris reticulata is called “Cantab”; the pale blue flowers with their bright yellow nectar guide will help the early season insects find their prize. We plant many of our bulbs in terracotta pots covered with a layer of ornamental gravel, which not only is decorative it also assists drainage and offer some protection from our little furry friends. The gravel does seem to deter the mice, although I am not sure if this is because it masks any bulb scent (if such a thing exists) or that they don’t want to hurt their little paws.
This dwarf iris species is called reticulata as the bulb is covered with a fibrous net. They are native to the Middle East which should give us a clue as to why it can sometimes be tricky to keep them in fine form year after year. Just as with any plant it is happiest when you can recreate, as far as possible, its conditions in the wild. As these include hot, dry summer (not the only thing that would thrive on one of those), you can understand the problem. This gives us another reason for pot culture: it is much easier to keep pots dry and protect them from another of their adversaries, slugs and snails. If all else fails they are inexpensive and readily available so can be treated as an annual, replaced each year, without much guilt. Only reaching 10-15cm high, they may be small but are definitely perfectly formed and cannot fail to bring a smile to your face in late winter and early spring.