Monday, January 26, 2015

THE BLUE IRIS GARDEN -- Planting A Monochromatic Tall Bearded Iris Bed

By Susanne Holland Spicker

'Bubbling Waves' (Ghio 2006)


One of the oldest gardens in my yard is a tall bearded monochromatic blue iris bed. The word Monochromatic is defined as any shade, tint, or tone of one color.  I've been putting blues together in this bed for many years. There are countless blue iris cultivars to choose from--ranging from the very light, silvery 'Silverado', to the blue-black of 'Hello Darkness', and every hue in between. I'm drawn to the calming and restful feeling that the cool blue color palette  provides. As an added note, cool colors also help make small gardens appear larger because they tend to recede in the distance. Just be careful to plant them in full sunlight, as they can disappear in the shadows.


To achieve a maximum focal impact, I've used a wide variety of selfs, plicatas, and neglectas*. Although many cultivars in the bed are older varieties, I have updated the bed through the years, adding new favorites. The 16' X 12' bed presently has 45 different cultivars. I added 3 new ones this year. To help with the decision, I make a collage to see how well  new irises coordinate with what I have. A pictorial 'wish list' folder on the computer helps to remind me of ones I want to add. This has been a valuable aid. I also make note of the cultivar's bloom season, extending the bloom time of the garden by using very-early to very-late blooming irises.
'Silverado' (Schreiner 1987)

'World Premier' (Schreiner 1998)
'Queen's Circle' (Kerr 2000)




'Ruffled Ballet' (Roderick 1975)
Some terms you may be interested in if you're not familiar with them:

  • Tint - when white is added to the color. 
  • Tone -  when gray is added.
  • Shade -  when black is added.
  • The bed incorporates all these in different Values. (The lightness or darkness of the color).


'Daughter Of Stars' (Spoon 2001)

'No Count Blues' (Schreiner 2009)
'Monday Morning Blues' (Van Liere 2012)
'Classic Look' (Schreiner 1992), 'City Lights' (Dunn 1991)
'Proud Tradition' (Schreiner 1990)
'Gyro' (Aitkin 1989)
Harmony in the bed was relatively easy to achieve with this single color scheme. By adding some whites, and accenting with companion plants in pinks and roses, this blue monochromatic iris bed has proven to be a favorite. 

Do you have a monochromatic garden?  If so, I'd love to hear from you and what you've done. 


*  Self - An iris with standards and falls of the same color
   Plicata - Stippled, dotted or stitched color patterns on the falls over a lighter ground color
   Neglecta - A bi-tone iris in blue or purple shades    
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