Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Mass Plantings for a Breathtaking Display

Irises are the ultimate collector's plant. Those of us smitten with the "iris virus" drool over the newly introduced varieties in iris catalogs, surf the online catalogs of iris sellers for hours, and compile endless lists of irises we must add to our ever-expanding collections. As a result, there is very little space in our gardens for mass plantings of a single variety. We divide our clumps and keep them small to conserve precious garden space for the flowers arriving in the next order.

This predilection of iris lovers makes it unusual to see a single variety of iris in a mass planting in the garden. What a shame. There is nothing as breathtaking as a garden filled with masses of flowering irises.

Marte Hult has elevated the use of mass plantings to an artform in her Minnesota garden.

Marte has been gardening at her home since 1974. The garden came equipped with a few "noid" historic irises. (For the novice iris grower, noid means no I.D., an iris whose name is lost or unknown.) Marte's noids have proliferated since, and form the backbone of a spectacular spring display in her garden. 


Sometimes a noid is the result of a nursery or gardener mix-up. This may be 'Cranberry Swirl,' or maybe it isn't. Either way, its value in the garden is unmistakable. 

Marte also grows modern tall bearded and Siberian irises en masse. Here she uses 'Impressionist' tall bearded iris to excellent effect with Siberian irises.

The art of layering plants is demonstrated here by Marte's beds: 

Marte with her noid yellow historics:  irises that will take your breath away.

Do you have a mass planting of irises? If you get the time, take a photo of it and send it to me at renee.fraser@gmail.com and I will put them together on this blog.  We'll have a nice show of irises to keep us all going until Spring bloom.


  1. OMG...I wish I had enough space to do them justice like that! My dad still lives back home in Nebraska (at the same house I grew up in)! He has a little over 1 acre that he gardens on...and has hundreds (ok...thousands) of Iris...many from his own breeding efforts (definitely NOID)! Although he's not much of a designer, seeing the huge swathes of Iris in blooms is an amazing spectacle...people driving along the highway visibly slow down (some even stop)...it's THAT beautiful. I only have space for a tiny amount in my garden...so choosing the few I can have is kind of torturous!

    1. Scott, your father's gardens sound like an iris lover's dream. We would love to see some photos some time. We would also love to see which judicious iris choices you made to go with your lovely agastaches. Perhaps this spring...

    2. @scottweberpdx

      Not Sure where you live but have you thought about dwarf varieties. They are becoming my new favorite. Perfect little iris for tight places.

  2. BAM! say a huge clump of iris, no ignoring them when they are that big and bold. The first photo of the lilac colored iris is mouth watering! Just goes to show that you don't need 100 different varieties, just a bit of time with one.

    1. "Less is More" if you have "More of Less" I always say!

  3. I planted my "superstitious" about four years ago but the flowers never came up only the leaves. My back yard is shady and they weren't getting 6 hours of sun. I have various others in the yard near the same spot that get a little more sun and they do fine. I recently moved to a new house and my front yard faces north . I've transplanted all the tubers from my old house to my new house. I'm going to cross my fingers.


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