Randalls Island Park Alliance

A Love Affair

In What's in Bloom on March 9, 2012 at 2:02 pm

By Phyllis Odessey

I fell in love with Katherine Hodgkin, the minute I laid eyes on her.  That was many years ago.  I’ve changed, but she has stayed the same.

Like any woman you might be smitten with, I wanted to know more about her.  Who was Katherine Hodgkin?

It was difficult to find any information.  She was the wife of Eliot Hodgkin, a grower of rare bulbs. E.B. Anderson (1895-1971) a past president of the Alpine Garden Society grew the iris, known as Katherine Hodgkin in his garden in Gloucestershire.  He named it after the wife of his friend, Eliot Hodgkin.

There are a variety of opinions about Katherine.

“…whose flower colour is more of an acquired taste.  Very much influenced by the quality of light, it can be seen one day, disliked and dismissed.  Yet on a second sighting in a different light will be appreciated as a well selected cultivar of I.winogradowii.” Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, March 2011

“Look closely at the flower of the queen of the dwarf irses,  ‘Katherine Hodgkin’, and you will see complex and intriguing patterns that resemble a Rorschach inkblot test.

Against the cool pale blue of the petals, darker veins merge into yellow stains and random spotting.  This could be the lip of an orchid or the camouflage of an exotic butterfly.  Neither Faberge nor a Meissen painter could fashion anything as beautiful as this:  it could only be a creation of nature.”  John Hoyland, The Telegraph

“Katherine Hodgkin is an extraordinary thing, with the yellow of Iris winogradowii in its parentage.  The flowers are like the colour of silks gone through the wash:  palest yellow or blue, depending on the light, and spotted heavily with cobalt over a yalky throat.  Dan Pearson

If you are on Randall’s Island in the next couple of days, take a walk along the water to the Rock Garden (next to the Ferry Dock)  and  look closely at ‘Katherine Hodgkin’.

She doesn’t stick around for long, but faithfully she comes back every year.


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