Monday, October 21, 2013

Extending the Louisiana Bloom Season with Companions for Louisiana Irises

By Ron Killingsworth

We grow thousands of Louisiana irises here, many spuria hybrids, iris virginica, twenty or so hybrid tall bearded irises, some really old "hand me down" tall bearded irises, some species crosses and lots of Dutch irises.  But we also grow many other beautiful plants.  You can extend your gardening season with judicious choices of spring bulbs, flowering trees, and other perennials that bloom before and after the irises.  Here at our gardens in Louisiana, springtime starts with the blooming of narcissus, snow flakes and grape hyacinths, continues with the daffodils and Dutch irises.  

Narcissus with Snow Flakes (leucojum vernum) in background

Flowering Quince is another early spring bloomer and we have several plants in the front and side yards.

Flowering Quince
One unusual tree that blooms early in this area is the redbud tree, which puts out its blooms before the leaves. Vivian, LA, just north of us, has the "Redbud Festival" each spring as these trees bloom.


Another early bloomer, blooming in NW LA at the end of February, is an old species of tall bearded iris that are handed down through the generations.  Every time I give a talk on growing irises, at least one person will comment "I grow the purple one" and this is the pass-along flower they mean.  

We also grow iris virginica in blue, white, and pink.  

iris.virginica white
iris.virginica "big blue"
iris.virginica pink

Another wonderful little plant that produces massive amounts of bloom each spring is "Johnny Jump Ups".  These little flowers are appropriately named because once you plant some, they "jump up" all over the place!  They are ideal with irises since they cover the ground with color without smothering rhizomes.

 "Johnny Jump Up" Violas

The Spuria irises usually bloom about the same time as the LA irises.  
LA Iris 'Adell Tingle'

Spuria irises 

An unusual iris we grow is 'Aichi-no-kagayaki' (Shinnosuki) a species cross that blooms late in the season, not until June.

'Aichi-no-kagayaki' a species cross

Close up of 'Aichi-no-kagayaki' which has Japanese iris in it.

In June, the Amaryllis bloom.  We grow many different hybrids of Amaryllis.  My sister has been crossing them and producing new varieties.


My wife Sue loves Angel Trumpets in white and yellow.  These beautiful huge blooms are about the last bloom we see before the first freeze of the year.

Angel Trumpets (brugmansia) 

Angel Trumpets
These are a few of the blooming plants we use to extend our bloom season here in Northwest Louisiana.  What plants do you use along side of your irises to create a long bloom season?

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