Monday, September 29, 2014

Beautiful Gardens with Irises in Every Climate

By Renee Fraser

Sometimes I see a photo of an iris online and what catches my eye is not the flower, but the setting. I come back to these photos and study them, trying to figure out how to achieve that look in my own garden. Here today I have posted some garden photos from various iris growers around the Internet, so that you can dream a bit and get some inspiration for your own garden Eden.

Santa Cruz, California is a beautiful part of the state with a world-class university and spectacular views of the Pacific and the mountains. It gets decent rainfall for California. Sherry Austin has created a sprawling garden that features huge clumps of Pacific Coast and Tall Bearded Irises, many of the latter historics.  

In addition to being a talented gardener, Sherry is an accomplished musician who specializes in folk music. You can hear her for yourself by visiting the website of her group, Henhouse.  

In this photo, Sherry mixes New Zealand Flax, sedum, and Pacific Coast Irises in her landscape.

Below is Sherry's "vegetable" garden. Some of you may have "vegetable" gardens that look like this. From left to right: 'Indian Chief,' 'Whispering Falls', and in the back, 'Aureo variegata'. The roses are 'Fred Loads' and 'Sherry', and they are planted with Lavendula stoechys 'Otto Quast', dahlias, nepeta, sedum, and calendula. I love the wooden fence with the big clumps of irises.

And here it is from the other side:

Sherry has big plans for next year, with over a hundred new irises waiting to be planted. I can't wait to see the photos next year!

Joel Schaber is an artist and calligrapher who gardens in Boise, Idaho, and who chooses irises based on plant growth habit and beauty of foliage as well as scent and bloom. His gardens are meticulously planned, planted, and maintained. He has little time for poorly performing plants, as his garden attests. Here is Intermediate Bearded Iris 'Harmonium' with chives, ferns, hostas and the shasta daisy 'Becky' (not yet in bloom).

Here Joel uses 'Edith Wolford' (his favorite) with Asiatic lilies and California poppies.

A spectacular coordinated color display is created with 'Rhinelander', 'Paul Black', Centranthus ruber, and campanula.

In this bed, Joel uses (from left to right)  'Rhinelander', 'Sun Fun', 'World Premier', and 'Cheap Frills' in front, with 'Orinoco Flow' in the background. The companion plants include red Centranthus ruber (aka Jupiter's Beard or Valerian) and shasta daisy 'Becky'.  Can you believe the show put on by 'Orinoco Flow'?

The Centranthus ruber, California poppies, and shasta daisies tie Joel's beds together, and here they are joined by Siberian iris 'Caesar's Brother' and a yellow mini rose.

Pauline Lavigne has extensive cottage-style gardens with spectacular structures, all tied together with wide swaths of lawn and charming paths. Pauline gardens in Canada, where she grows peonies, daylilies, hostas, and irises, as well as countless other flowers and plants. The jaw-dropping photo below is what first brought her garden to my attention.

Here is the standard dwarf bearded iris 'Cherry Garden', which is the second iris to bloom in Pauline's garden, after iris cristata.  

Here's a different view of that first peony/iris combination. You can see the hostas in the background.

And this is another shot of the great garden iris 'Caesar's Brother', an exceptional siberian iris that will even grow in hot inland Southern California. What a color combination!

The last garden I'd like to share is in Minnesota. You may have seen Marte Hult's garden on this blog before. Marte's skill at layering plants en masse is only one of her gardening talents, though. She is also masterful at color coordination and contrast. Here she uses (what else?) 'Caesar's Brother' Siberian iris with masses of yellow historic tall bearded irises. (I really did not plan this PR for Caesar's Brother, I promise.)

This iris is the near-green 'County Cork' looking spectacular with chartreuse sedum.  

A cool pink tall bearded iris with chives for a fairy-tale effect.  

I hope you enjoyed these gardens as much as I did. Do you use irises in your garden, or do you plant them in separate beds? Leave a comment below, and good luck finding spots for all of those rhizomes appearing in the mail this summer and fall!


  1. I enjoyed this article, Renee! I love looking at other gardens and seeing how irises are used in the landscape. Many good ideas and beautiful photos--thanks!

  2. Great article, Renee! And thanks for including some from my garden!

  3. Wonderful! Thanks for writing this article, Renee. ~Evey :-)

  4. Really great, thank you very much. Especially the photo with Iris sibirica 'Caesar's Brother' and the yellow historic TB is wonderful. The picture with irises in front of the wooden fence - great! Good idea!

  5. You have a really nice collection of pictures. Thanks for sharing with us.

  6. There was a post in the centre so he had to dig this one out. We transplanted the yuccas that were in the middle of the diamond shaped area and replanted them off to the side.metal fence panels


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...