Susanne Holland Spicker
Since planting my first tall bearded irises in 1995, I have routinely planted the reliable and hardy beauties with a variety of companion plants. Over the years I'd always thought mixed planting was beneficial in more ways than the aesthetic beauty provided to the landscape. However, some sources had discouraged this practice, some even saying it was detrimental to the irises to plant them closely with other perennials and annuals.
|Tall Bearded Irises "BUBBLY MOOD," and (background)|
"ABOVE THE CLOUDS," with pink and blue lupine,
Raspberry Queen poppy, Bowl of Beauty Peony,
and assorted larkspur
Recently, however, two well-known and trusted sources confirm my thoughts about planting a variety of plants with bearded irises in your landscapes.
In his comprehensive book "A Guide to Bearded Irises--Cultivating the Rainbow--For Beginners and Enthusiasts," (Timber Press, Inc.) award-winning author, horticulturist and expert on iris Kelly D. Norris tells us that it is a myth that bearded irises "don't play well with others and need to be kept separate from companion plants." He says problems such as "leaf spot, rot, and brown foliage" are not due to mixed planting, and he encourages us to "use bearded irises to punch up our gardens with color and springtime life."
|Blooming tall bearded irises "BLACKALICIOUS,"|
"BLUEBERRY BLISS," "GARDEN BRIDE,"
with clematis Josephine, assorted lupine,
and Mons Jules Elie peony
The Schreiner's Iris Gardens blog "For the Love of Iris--Articles, Tips & Notes," (click to go to their site) tells us that a "centuries-old gardening tradition follows the theory that different plant species, planted close together, can assist each other with nutrient production and absorption, controlling pests, attracting pollinators, and other factors necessary for their full productivity." In the Display Gardens at Schreiner's Iris Gardens, Ray Schreiner designs with these principles in mind. The article goes on to say that "some of his [plant] choices fix nitrogen in the soil, others attract butterflies, others pollinators, some work to control weeds," and, of course, some are "chosen simply for their aesthetic appeal."
|Tall Bearded Irises "LIBERTY SONG," and "MIDNIGHT|
TREAT," with salvia, violas, pansies, lupine, and lilies
When planning flower beds for your landscape, always keep in mind the growth of the plant. Even when planting close, allow room for them to "breathe" as they mature and reach their maximum size. Because of my space limitations, most established clumps of irises are limited to roughly 10-15 stems.
|Tall bearded irises "POEM OF ECSTASY," |
"FEATURE ATTRACTION," "MARY FRANCIS,"
"JUMP FOR JOY," and "MASTER TOUCH,"
with assorted lupine and poppy
Using plants that complement each other with a variety of textures, colors, size and shapes make the landscape more interesting and pleasing to the eye. I've seen many pictures on this site with stunning landscape designs. To view these, check on previous articles here at the AIS blog, "World of Irises."
|Tall bearded irises "MYSTIC'S MUSE,"|
"J T'AIME," with columbine, allium, larkspur,
poppy, pansies, lilies, and foxglove
Whether you're a beginner iris-loving gardener or an expert designer, the practice of companion planting in your iris beds will enhance your landscapes and bring a joy that I've found to be most rewarding.
What different plant species do you have in your landscapes that go well with irises?