Monday, October 13, 2014

"Talking Irises" TALL BEARDED IRISES & COMPLEMENTARY COLOR SCHEMES--Planning your iris bed

by Susanne Holland Spicker

"Gardening is such an incredible joy, and the more successful you are as a gardener, the more enjoyable your gardening becomes" Mike McGroarty
'WINNING EDGE'  Ghio   1997   36"   ML

Planning irises in complementary color schemes has been an enjoyable production in progress in my flower beds. The beds have transitioned from a few irises in the garden in 1995, to presently 15 to 45 favorite varieties in each of the 14 iris beds throughout the yard. I couldn't have imagined how smitten I would become with these tall beauties back then, each year exclaiming I didn't have room for one more. I now have over 300 named cultivars, and I definitely don't have room for more! To keep my beds organized, I make a collage of irises in the bed, with favorites I want to add. This method works best for me, and it may work for you.

The color palette for my pastel bed is one of my favorites:
(From upper, row 1, l-r) 'BUBBLY MOOD' Ghio '84, 'BUBBLING OVER' Ghio '82, 'GOODNIGHT MOON' Schreiner '95, 'RUFFLED BALLET' Roderick '75, 'ROLE REVERSAL' Ghio '10, 'RHINELANDER' Schreiner '06 (row 2) 'PRETTY GENEROUS' Innerst '04, 'WINNING EDGE' Ghio '97, 'SKATING PARTY' Gaulter '83, 'EMBRACE ME' Van Liere '08, 'ASCII ART' Moores '97, 'GLOWING SMILE' Hager '01, (row 3) 'SOCIETY PAGE' Ghio '00, 'BUBBLING WAVES' Ghio '06, 'GOING DUTCH' Van Liere '09, 'QUEEN'S CIRCLE' Kerr '00, 'LACED COTTON' Schreiner '80, 'ELECTRABRITE' Brown '83, (row 4) 'POND LILY' Jones '95, 'COMING UP ROSES' Gatty '92, 'ABOVE THE CLOUDS' Schreiner '01, 'GLOBAL CROSSING' Van Liere '12, 'ELISA RENEE' Gaulter '93, 'MARY FRANCES' Gaulter '73

When planning out an iris bed, these are things that have worked best for me to achieve maximum success:  

  • What look do I want to accomplish?
  • What color schemes do I want to have?
  • What is the bloom time of the iris and companion plants?
  • What companion plants will go best with my irises, giving a variety of texture, shape, and size?
  • Which plants need to be moved or replaced?
  • Mapping out the bed and recording it in a notebook and computer.
  • 'GLOBAL CROSSING'  (Van Liere '12   36"   M)
This long wrap-around porch pastel bed now has 45 different tall bearded irises.
'DESIGNER LABEL' (Ghio '03  38"  M-L)
'BUBBLING OVER' (Ghio   '82   36"  M)
'OVERJOYED' (Gatty by Keppel '94   35"  M)
Irises come in a vast array of colors, multiply annually, and are easy to divide or move; so if the outcome isn't what you had in mind, changes can easily be made. I am always refining my beds. This is where a map of your irises is so beneficial.

Whether you're a beginning iris gardener, or a seasoned iris lover with many years of growing under your belt, seeing success in your garden is always exciting and very rewardingI eagerly look forward to spring!

What kind of iris gardener are you?  Do you plan your beds out?  I'd love to hear what you have to say!


  1. Susanne, As usual your photographs are spectacular. I have been with you as you have taken photos and you make it look almost effortless. It doesn't take you long and yet your photos look that way. That has to come from a lot of practice to make them look so professional. I learn tips about iris from you all the time. Thank you once again for making learning so beautiful.

    1. As always, you are so kind in your comments--thank you, dear friend.

  2. Flowerbeds are beautiful! Spectacular! And photos too!

  3. WOW... so glad I found your blog. Thank you so much and WOW again what a beautiful garden

  4. Im looking for a bright pink and/or pink & purple that will go with some old time purple iris,, a gift. I would like if I could find an early bloomer, a mid , and a late .If you have any suggestions I would be grateful. Thanks!


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