Irises became my favorite flower because they are so difficult to kill. Once I began gardening in earnest, and learned how not to kill a wider variety of plants, color coordination and bloom time became important considerations. I am still a novice at companion planting in the garden, but Susanne Spicker, our newest blogger here on the AIS World of Irises, is an old hand at it. Her background in interior design and her natural flair for color make her a master at companion planting, so I asked her to come up with some ideas for a few irises that can be difficult to work with in the garden.
Our first iris for this series is the award winning space-ager 'Thornbird'. Space-agers are irises in which the beard grows away from the flower fall. They can grow appendages such as flounces or spoons. 'Thornbird' also has a color you either love or hate: sort of a yellowy beige with a purplish cast to it. It is a tough iris to work with in the garden, despite its many awards, including an Honorable Mention in 1991; an Award of Merit in 1993; the Wister Medal in 1996; and the American Dykes Medal in 1997.
|'Thornbird' Byers, 1989 Photo by Susanne Spicker|
Susanne puts violets and purples with 'Thornbird' to exquisite effect. The violet companion plants bring out the purply overlay of Thornbird's falls and beard. From top left in the photo below she uses: clematis Jackmanii, 'Thornbird', allium Giant Gladiator, gladiola Green Star, pansy Giant Rose Series, tall bearded iris 'Boysenberry Buttercup' with 'Thornbird', lilac President Grevy, pulsitillia, columbine yellow McKanna Giant, tall bearded iris 'County Cork', and tall bearded iris 'Master Touch'. All of these plants bloomed in her Utah garden during the iris bloom period. Susanne plants glads every two weeks to be sure she has plenty for cutting and for complementing her irises.
Purple works just as well with this iris. Here Susanne shows the same companion irises along with peonies, pansies, and lupines with the star of the show.
I like to use a dominant color in my beds, since I am a bit color-challenged. This is a plan I have for a silver and gold bed using blue fescue, baumea rubiginosa 'variegata' (that spiky grass in the center photo), dusty miller, bunnytail grass, and artemisia. I first saw the combination on a San Fernando Valley Iris Society Trek and I have never been able to get it out of my mind.
We should not forget that irises are excellent stand-alone plants in a landscape as well. With that in mind, we leave you with a spectacular clump shot of 'Thornbird' from Kaska Cholewa's garden in Poland.
|Photo copyright Kaska Cholewa|
Do you grow 'Thornbird' in your garden? Do you have it all by itself, planted with other irises, or with companion plantings? What would you like to see planted with 'Thornbird'?