Monday, June 5, 2017

"Talking Irises" GARDEN MAGIC FILLS MY SOUL-The Irises of Kat Zalewska

By Susanne Holland Spicker


The Irises of Kat Zalewska

'HAZELBRAE' (Zalewska 2015)

If you're not familiar with award-winning iris hybridizer Katarzyna "Kat" Zalewska, it is my pleasure to introduce her to you.  When I first saw the magic of her beautiful iris garden, I wanted to share her video with our AIS blog readers. She has graciously agreed.

Kat lives in the English Midlands, in the county of Staffordshire and is proud of the fact that she is the first Polish female iris hybridizer since before the second world war. Kat says that hybridizing is her true love and passion. Her iris garden has approximately 600 varieties of tall bearded irises (TB) and more than 100 dwarf bearded (DB) varieties.

Kat Zalewska seedling 18-13-KZ-B

She says she was hooked when she received her first iris from a neighbor. It wasn't long before she "realized how many varieties there were" and her "interest in botany took hold." She says, "After my first stuttering attempt, I became completely focused on creating my own varieties." 

'PEAR IN WHISKEY' (Zalewska 2016)

Her first crossings were in 2012. However, she says that this "first attempt was not too successful," as most of her "seed pods were damaged in a thunderstorm."  It is not uncommon for her to spend months trying to come to a decision for a suitable name for her cultivars. However, being inspired by both history and her travels, "sometimes a name will spring to mind" as soon as she sees a variety bloom for the first time.

                  'WANILIOWE JEZIORO' (Zalewska 2015)

In the last two years she has registered 11 cultivars. The number of seedlings she has hybridized in the past two years, however, has been a few thousand, a number of which she is still assessing. 

Kat Zalewska seedling

Even though she has "become more interested in crossing dwarf bearded varieties as each year passes, she mainly focuses on hybridizing tall bearded irises.  

Kat Zalewska Seedling 18-13-KZ-D

As yet, Kat has not exported any cultivars beyond the European Union, and currently, there are no growers in the USA, but she would "very much like that to happen," as would I!

                     'VIOLET VENUS' (Zalewska 2015)

As a gifted photographer, Kat's irises provide her with wonderful subject material. The British weather is very temperamental, so the best time to take photos is dictated by that rather than the time of day. She has an old Lumix camera, which, as she states, "serves its purpose." She commissioned a talented young director to produce the beautiful iris garden video that begins this article.

'CRYSTAL CREEK' (Zalewska 2016)

She writes: "A number of hybridizers concentrate on specific characteristics of irises and this heavily influences the fruits of their work. I recognize that different regions have different tastes and I try and embrace this.

Kat Zalewska seedling

Someone once said, "I'm so glad I live in a world where there are gardens."  I wholeheartedly agree, and as a fan of Kat's garden and her stunning iris cultivars, I am hopeful some of her beautiful flowers will make it to the United States.  In the mean time, I look forward to viewing her exceptional flowers on various Facebook groups featuring irises, or on her website: where more information about her and her hybridizing program can be found.

Kat Zalewska seedling 

Thank you, Kat, for sharing your spectacular iris garden and giving us the opportunity of getting to know you better. Your passion for hybridizing has helped to make the world more beautiful.

Kat Zalewska seedling

If you have any questions or comments for Kat, I'm sure she'd love to hear from you! Leave your comments or questions here and she'll respond.  


  1. Loved the video! Great article, and many lovely flowers. Thanks.

    1. Thank you. I not only loved the beautiful irises, but the serene and relaxing music that Kat used was especially nice!

  2. Wonderful post Susanne, and wonderful work by Kat Zalewska. Looking forward to following her work over the years. Lovely video too.

    1. Thank you, Andi. I am looking forward to following her as well. It was a pleasure doing the article!

  3. Good job Susanne and Kat. I enjoyed seeing the irises that Kat hybridized. Only thing lacking is the American market. Thank You both.

    1. Thank you! You're so right, Dawn. Every one of the irises she's hybridized, I want!! She's truly a gift woman!

  4. I love her video. I first found it on youtube and it is so well done! It holds me through the dreary winter in anticipation of a new iris blooming season. Thank you for the blog post as I did not
    realize she hybridized as well. I hope she does another in the future. I could watch them all day long. All in time.

  5. Not sure which I enjoy the most
    - the beautiful irises or the great photography!


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