Monday, February 27, 2017

Check roots to know when to transplant Pacifica Iris

February 26, 2017 
Kathleen Sayce

The West Coast is having a winter of pronounced weather, if one thinks of a series of Atmospheric Rivers (AR) as ‘pronounced’. I know I do—no soft drizzling days here, no ma'am. ARs are firehoses in the sky, huge rivers of moisture that deliver strong winds and warm rains from the Equator to higher latitudes. 

Above latitude 46 on the ocean, where I garden, rainfall is well above average for the water year, which began October 1st. Other areas are also above, including much of California, which is experiencing a definite wet season in an otherwise years-long drought. Those warm storms alternate with days of clear skies, balmy temperatures, and weeks of more typical winter weather, including snow, hail and much colder rain. 

Pacifica Iris clump with a little hail topdressing:  yes, this plant has active root growth below ground. 

This seesawing back and forth leads me to wonder what is going on below ground and when will be a good time to transplant irises, including Pacifica Iris. There is only one time to transplant them, and that is when plants are in active root growth. 

Healthy PCI buds suggest it's time to divide and replant--but check the roots first to ensure success. 

This means you have to gently scrape out the soil under the new buds and check the roots. Normally this is in the fall after rains begin, following dry summers, or winter into spring, before the annual summer drought begins. 

PCI 'Mission Santa Cruz' has a lovely new root, and is ready to be moved. 

Another general rule is that while Pacifica Iris are flowering and ripening seeds, they can be transplanted. I’d like to know how widely this works, so if you have experience with transplanting during spring, please let me know, or add a comment here at the bottom. 

If you live in other climate areas and grow Pacifica Iris, begin by checking roots on the plants you want to divide, repot or transplant.

Between hail storms today I went out and dug around a few plants to see what they are doing in the soil. I found a mixed bag, ranging from completely dormant (Iris tenax) to starting to grow (several recent Ghio hybrids). 

This PCI fan shows the roots from young (and active) on the left through the full sequence of older darker roots to fine roots off the rhizome on the right. It's ready to be replanted. 

I’ve mentioned before that hybrids from the Bay Area in California flower too early in my garden to escape heavy rain, and thus rarely set seed. If the rain is so hard that flowers are battered, bees aren’t flying around either.  These irises also begin growing very early—perhaps they are more attuned to day length than temperature. 

The finding in late February in my garden was that some new roots are starting to elongate just behind the new fans in some plants. There aren’t very many yet, one root per fan so far, where there will be four or more in a few weeks, but that’s enough of a sign of new growth that those early flowering hybrids can be dug up, divided, and replanted. 

Iris tenax is just starting to break winter dormancy; you can see the green shoots to the upper right. Roots are still brown. 

I will wait a few weeks for the others. Iris tenax, I. thompsonii, I. innominata and their various hybrids are still largely dormant, with few signs of new leaves on the first, and only a few new shoots on the latter.

Iris lazica has a bud. Not a PCI, but a good companion to them, and one that adds months of flowers to the garden, as does I. unguicularis

For comparison, in southern California, PCI are in active growth and starting to flower. Meanwhile, Iris lazica has put up a first bud, along with PCI ‘Premontion of Spring’, which has been flowering off and on since last September, as has Iris unguicularis

The next time you look at your Pacific Iris plants and wonder about getting starting dividing, go check the roots first. It’s the best way to ensure success. 

Monday, February 20, 2017


By Dawn Mumford

I received some very favorable comments about the photomontages in my last blog in November.  To see it press this link: Photomontages of our 2016 irises .  I created over 75 of them so I thought I would share a few more.  During iris bloom season it is so nice to go out to the garden each day and photograph those irises that have bloomed that day.  It is a very accurate way of recording what day an iris bloomed and even what time of day. Because I created the montages on the day I took the photographs I knew that those irises bloomed the same day. I also enjoy grouping the irises in colors that complement each other. That can be used in planning colors in beds. 

‘Fiery Temper’ Keith Keppel, 2000, could rebloom in some areas under some conditions.  ‘Starship Enterprise’ Schreiner’s, 1999, ‘Starring’ Joseph Ghio, 1999. These irises bloomed on May 17th 2016.  The colors are rich and dramatic.  As is in most cases the full lush beards are a nice finishing touch on each of these irises. 

‘Goodnight Moon’ Schreiner’s, 1995,  ‘That’s All Folks’ William Maryott, 2004, ‘Tut’s Gold’ Schreiner’s, 1979, (Historic) can Rebloom, ‘Neutron Dance’ Barry Blyth, 1987 , ‘Neutron Dance’  is classified as an Amoena in the iris world.  That means white standards and colored falls. Yellow brings sunshine to the garden.  It will always stand out so a little goes a long way if you don’t want to draw too much attention away from your other irises. These all bloomed May 15, 2016

‘Purple Ritz’ Lesley Painter, 2002, has purple based foliage, ‘Gold Trimmings’  Schreiner’s, 1993 (Historic), ‘Fancy Stuff’ Opal Brown by Margaret McCrae, 1998, ‘Silver Years’ Ben Hager, 1979 (Historic), ‘Old Flame’ Joseph Ghio, 1973 (Historic)
These all bloomed May 29, 2016 

‘Fancy Stuff’ Opal Brown by Margaret McCrae, 1998, ‘Blue Note Blues’ Richard Ernst, 1996 (Historic) Very Fragrant, ‘Dusky Challenger’ Schreiner’s, 1986 (Historic) Dykes Medal Winner 1992, ‘French Lavendar’ John Painter, 2010, spicy fragrance, ‘Be Original’ Joseph Ghio, 2008, ‘Paris Fashion’ Keith Keppel, 2002, ‘Paul Black’ Thomas Johnson, 2002, very fragrant, ‘Grecian Sea’ Anton Mego by Bruce Filardi, 2008, fragrant
These bloomed May 22, 2016 at 11:59 p.m. which means the sun was directly overhead.  It isn't my favorite time to take pictures because they can be washed out by the overhead sun.  I like 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. the best.  

‘Blanka’s Peak’ David Miller, 2006, Fragrant, ‘Wink And A Smile’ Paul Black, 2011, Fragrant, ‘Jesse’s Song’ Bryce Williamson, Plicata, 1983, (Historic) Dykes Medal Winner 1990 (a must for every garden)
These were taken May 11, 2016, 3:05 p.m.

‘Designer Gown’ Joseph Ghio, 1985 (Historic), ‘Picture Book’ Joseph Ghio, 2006, purple based foliage, ’Gladys Austell’ Lionel Austell, 2009, ‘Concertina’ Intermediate Bearded, could rebloom, George Sutton, 1999, horned, ‘June Krausse’ Schreiner’s, 2009
Pictures were taken on May 14, 2016 at 10:13 a.m.

‘Fragrant Lilac’ Ben Hager, 1984, (Historic), Very fragrant, ‘Paul Black’ Thomas Johnson, 2002, very spicy fragrance, ‘Sentimental Mood’ Schreiner’s, 1988 (Historic), ‘Sweet Serenade’ Schreiner’s, 2011, ‘Dusky Challenger’ Schreiner’s, 1986 (Historic) Dykes Medal Winner 1992
These photographs were taken June 3, 2016 at 8:31 a.m.

‘Well Endowed’ Joseph Ghio, 1979, (Historic) 8-9” top to bottom bloom size!  ‘Lemon Cloud’ Lesley Painter, 2007, Fragrant, ‘Decadence’ Barry Blyth, 2004, Gold Trimmings Schreiner’s, 1975 (Historic)
Pictures taken June 10th, 2016 at 10:55 a.m.

‘Louisa’s Song’ Barry Blyth, 1999, slight sweet fragrance, ‘Queen’s Circle’ Frederick Kerr, 1999  This one is said to be an amoena pattern (white standards with anthocyanin or carotenoid pigmented falls) but with the “Emma Cook pattern” this is defined as an amoena pattern with white, yellow, pink, peach, or orange standards and narrow anthocyanin pigmented bordered falls. ‘Rain Cloud’ Duane Meek, 1977, (Historic), ‘Global Crossing’ Robert Van Liere, 2011.These pictures were taken May 15, 2016 at 6:01 p.m. I like the shadows and depth of colors at that time of day.  

‘Heartfelt Beauty’ Margie Valenzuela, 2012, slight fragrance, ‘Elizabethan Age’ Lowell Baumunk, 2005, luminata pattern meaning the reverse pattern of a plicata, with darker ground color and white edges, veins and around beards, ‘Adriatic Waves’ Keith Keppel, 2008
These pictures were taken May 16th, 2016 

‘Blue Note Blues’ Richard Ernst, 1996, pronounced sweet fragrance, ‘Blenheim Royal’ Schreiner’s, 1990, ‘Adriatic Waves’ Keith Keppell, 2008, ‘Skywalker’ Schreiner’s, 1996, slight fragrance, ‘Versailles’ Keith Keppel, 2006 Sibling to ‘Parisian Dawn’,Full Tide’ Opal Brown, 1972 (Historic)
These photographs were taken June 13th, 2016

‘Dawn Glory’ Schreiner’s, 1982 (Historic) ‘Sweeter Than Honey’ Robert Van Liere, 2011, ‘Autumn Leaves’ Keith Keppel, 1972, (Historic), ‘Supreme Sultan’ Schreiner’s, 1987, listed as a variegata having  yellow standards and maroon or brown falls, huge bloom, ’Chocolate Shake’ James Gibson, 1981 (Historic) Pictures were taken June 12th, 2016, 12:26 p.m. 

'Strawberry Shake' Keith Keppel, 2011 'Romantic Gentleman' Barry Blyth, 2002 'Embrace Me' Robert Van Liere, 2008, 'Eye for Style' Barry Blyth, 2006, 'Wearing Rubies' Barry Blyth. 2000, Reblooms, Fragrant 'My Beloved' Joseph Ghio, 2008 'Dinner Talk' Barry Blyth, 2005, 'Fashion Diva' Thomas Johnson, 2009, 'Starring' Joseph Ghio, 2000
This montage was created especially for this blog as a salute to Valentines' Day.  The blooms didn't all open on the same day so may or may not bloom at the same time.   

Happy Valentines Day!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Growing Irises from Seed

by Tom Waters

We usually propagate irises by division: digging up a large clump, breaking apart the individual rhizomes, and replanting. This method is easy, and because most irises increase rapidly, within a few years you will have plenty of them. This post is about a different way of propagating irises: planting seeds. This is a process that has some challenges, but also has some wonderful rewards. If you've never thought about growing irises from seeds, or have wondered about it but are unsure how to start, read on!


If you are hybridizing, you will necessarily be growing irises from seed. Hybridizing refers to cross-pollinating irises to produce new varieties. When you cross two different irises, the result is a pod of seeds. Each of the seedlings will grow into a new individual, not exactly like any other iris. Propagating by division only creates exact copies of the original plant, whereas progagation from seed creates only brand new plants, different from either parent. Even if you are not intending to embark on serious hybridizing program to create new varieties to sell commercially, making crosses and raising seedlings can be fun and interesting.
Woohoo! Iris seeds just arrived from Czechia

But hybridizing is not the only reason you might want to raise irises from seed. Some types of irises may just not be obtainable from commercial growers as plants, but you may be able to acquire seeds from a collector or from a seed exchange. This is especially true of iris species, the wild irises from different parts of the world. It can be very difficult to import live plants from other countries, but importing seeds is usually much easier. I've gotten seeds of iris species from collectors in the Czech Republic and from seed exchanges run by the Species Iris Group of North America (SIGNA), the British Iris Society (BIS), the Scottish Rock Garden Club (SRGC), and the North American Rock Garden Society (NARGS). Although the seedlings from a given offering of species seeds will all be different, in subtle or obvious ways, they will all still be plants of that named species, unless the person providing the seed misidentified the plant, or unless it was accidentally cross-pollinated by a different species growing nearby.

Growing irises from seeds also has some other advantages: you get a wide variety of different plants, so you can choose the ones that do best in your climate or whose appearance you prefer. Growing from seed is also a way to eliminate virus infection, should that be a problem.

Finally, growing irises (or any plant) from seeds is a very satisfying experience. It connects you with the whole process of growth, from its very beginning. There's nothing quite like seeing the first bloom of a plant you've grown from seed yourself.


The process of growing irises from seeds is not (usually) very difficult, but it does require patience and attention to factors that you might not have considered if your only experience of raising plants from seeds is growing vegetables or annuals. There have been many articles written on special ways to grow iris seeds; you can find a number of them on the web. In this post, I am not going to suggest one particular method as superior, but just give you an overview of the basics, so that you can get started and learn what works for you.

There are two requirements for germinating iris seeds:

1. They must experience several months of cold temperatures, followed by a warming period.

2. They must have adequate moisture.

Seeds planted into pots sunk in the ground
 (gravel on top protects from washout
and animal interferenece)
The simplest way to meet these two requirements is to plant the seeds outdoors in the autumn or early winter, and let nature take its course--assisting with supplemental water if natural precipitation is insufficient. Seeds can be planted straight in the soil, or in pots sunk into the ground or just left on a porch or in a cold frame. A planting depth of 1 cm or 1/2 inch is suitable for most seeds. Germination usually occurs around the time of iris bloom in the spring.

Some growers prefer to give the seeds their cold treatment ("stratification") indoors, by putting the seeds in baggies with slightly moist vermiculite, perlite, or other sterile medium and refrigerating them for 60 days or more. The advantage of indoor stratification is greater control over the conditions, and the possibility of getting germination a few months earlier. The disadvantage is that you need to be prepared to grow on the seedlings indoors under grow lights for some time, until they are ready to be hardened off and planted outdoors.
Newly sprouted seedlings!

I prefer the outdoor method, as it is less bother and easier to manage with large numbers of seedlings. If I had an extra refrigerator to use for seeds, I might prefer indoor germination.

Whatever method is used to germinate the seeds, they should be transplanted to a semi-permanent seedling bed outdoors when they have at least three leaves. Some may bloom a year later. The year after that, most should bloom and you can decide which ones to keep and which to discard.

The reason the period of cold temperature is needed is that irises, like many perennials from temperate climates, cannot easily survive a winter while still small seedlings. When germination occurs in the spring, rather than in the fall, the young plants have the best possible chance of survival. In contrast, most annuals are fast-growing, opportunistic plants that can grow, flower, and produce seed whenever there is a few months of warm weather.


Even if the requirements above are met, not all the seeds will sprout the first year. With garden variety bearded irises, the percentage will usually be more than 50%, and can approach 100%. Most of the remainder will sprout the following year. At the other extreme, aril irises may sprout a few at a time over a period of 10 years or more. Why is this? It is nature's "insurance policy" against calamities and harsh conditions of various sorts. If all seeds sprouted at the same time, a drought, flood, fire, or other disaster could destroy the whole population. By having the seeds sprout over the course of several years, it is virtually guaranteed that some will survive.

For the gardener, however, such protracted dormancy is a frustration. Few of us want to wait a decade for the seeds we plant to sprout! In irises, dormancy has at least two causes: the hardness of the seed coat, which makes it mechanically difficult for the seedling to emerge, and chemical germination inhibitors inside the seed itself. In nature, the action of water and the cycles of freezing and thawing serve to gradually weaken the seed coat and to leach away the chemical inhibitors.

Some growers have success by planting seed fresh, before it has a chance to dry out. For some types, at least, this can bypass dormancy and result in immediate germination. Of course, one then needs a way to care for the seedlings over winter.

A variety of techniques are used to overcome dormancy artificially. One can attempt to leach out the germination inhibitors by prolonged soaking or use of running water. One can overcome the hard seedcoat by abrasion or chipping (cutting away the seedcoat to expose the embryo). This "forced germination" procedure is often recommended for difficult oncocyclus seeds. The ultimate procedure is to excise the embryo under sterile conditions, and germinate it on a nutrient agar medium. This "embryo culture" can be used to germinate seeds that will not germinate any other way, but it is very demanding work and the young seedlings are very vulnerable.

Whether you choose to use any of these techniques for overcoming dormancy will depend on whether the basic method is giving adequate germination for the types of seeds you grow. I think the best advice is to try natural germination first, and then move on to progressively more invasive and difficult techniques if you need to.

The Payoff

I encourage everyone to trying growing irises from seeds at least once, whether it's making a cross or two in your own garden or ordering a packet of seeds from a seed exchange. It's an adventure, and the first bloom of an iris you've raised from seed yourself makes it all worth the wait!

Here are three seedlings from the same cross, arilbred 'Aztec Prince' (Tasco, 2009) X Iris pumila:

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Winter Flowering Iris, Part 2

By Bryce Willliamson

In putting together the blog The Winter Flowering I. unguicularis, Mr. Richard Tasco answered my questions and provided images. The following interview has been constructed from our correspondence. I. unguicularis do provide good winter flowering plants in Zone 7 and up, but cannot be grown outside in other zones.

BW: How did you get started hybridizing I. unguicularis?

RT: During the 1998 season I made my first cross with the Iris Unguicularis.  This was I. Ssp Cretensis X Marondera.  Marondera is an unregistered large flowered Unguicularis of unknown origin.  I found reference to this clone in South Africa.  This cross produced 3 seeds, two of which germinated and one went on to die.  The other turned out to be my first Unguicularis introduction “Dazzling Eyes” (Tasco 2004).

Dazzling Eyes (Tasco)--image by Rick Tasco

In succeeding years I started to use more clones which I acquired:  Mary Barnard, Walter Butt, Alba, Lazica and of course Marondera.  Marondera more than any of the others proved to be a wonderful parent.  It was largely responsible for my goal of getting large flowers with large rounded petals in this class.  Lazica and Walter Butt did not produce anything worthwhile.  I was more successful with Alba and Mary Barnard.   Wishmaster (Tasco 2007) was Marondera X Mary Barnard.  This is a large medium purple flower.

BW: What were and are your goals in hybridizing?

RT: Another goal was to use Alba to create a very pale lavender along the lines of Walter Butt, but much larger.  This was achieved with my Lavender Moonbeams (Tasco 2014) by using Alba X Marondera.  I called it Lavender Moonbeams.  I’m still using Alba trying to get a white flower with blue shadings.  White flowers do appear in my seedlings but only in the second generation.  Such as Alba X Marondera and then Alba by the progeny of the first cross.  The percent of white flowers in any cross is about 10 percent, but most white flowers, like Alba, aren’t strong growers.  I’m working to improve that.

Lavender Moonbeams (Tasco 2014)--image by Rick Tasco

Still another goal was for dark flowers.  Result was Winter Echoes (Tasco 2011), this was a cross of Marondera X Mary Barnard.   I’m still working for something darker.

Winter Echoes (Tasco 2011)--image by Rick Tasco

The progeny of these crosses do not produce that much diversity and it is difficult to select something different and better.  One year I grew 800 seedlings and only selected two to introduce.  Currently I have about 700 unguicularis seedlings. 

Tasco 04-UNG-03-10--image by Rick Tasco

BW: Do you have any tips for gardeners?

RT: Unguicularis are easy growing plants that can grow and bloom in either full sun or partial shade.  In full sun the foliage may yellow somewhat and become upright making it difficult to observe the flowers in bloom.  In partial shade the foliage remains greener and tends to reflex so the flowers can be easily be observed.

Image by Rick Tasco

BW: What are some of the unusual characteristics of I. unguicularis?

Unguicularis do not have stalks.  They flower on elongated perianth tubes.  Some varieties have longer tubes than others, but most are between 8 and 15 inches.

BW: Do you have any special cultural recommendations?

RT: In our Central California climate it is best to plant or transplant Unguicularis at the end of October or the beginning of November.  Although most literature say they can grow in poor soil, I amend my soil with a good soil amendment, half and half, such as Miracle-Gro or Sta-Green (very comparable and less expensive than Miracle-Gro but only available at Lowe’s).  This makes a big difference in good growth and more flowers.

Rick Tasco's I. unguircularis seedling bed, February 3, 2017--image by Rick Tasco

From late spring thru October the plant is dormant and the roots will die.  When digging for transplant there will be many wiry roots that are dead.  With the onset of cooler and wetter weather the plants will begin to grow new fat white roots similar to Pacific Coast Natives.  I cut off all the dead and wiry roots before I transplant being careful not to cut the new fat white ones.  They transplant easily even into pots.

Tasco 04-ung-02-11_2_2013 (1)--image by Rick Tasco

Editor’s Note: For plants, two sources are available. Superstition Iris Gardens offer three of the four Tasco varieties this year in 4 inch pots for sale and can be contacted at or search for the Superstition Iris Gardens page on Facebook; Plant Delight Gardens in NC sells them too and they have an on-line catalogue at

My sincere thanks to Mr. Richard Tasco for providing information and images.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

The Winter Flowering Iris Unguicularis

By Bryce Williamson

Gardeners are always looking for ways to extend bloom season and iris gardeners are no exception. In his recent blog, Hooker Nichols talk about using Louisiana irises to extend the iris season after the tall bearded irises bloom; for those of us that live in a mild climate, there is a little grown iris that can start to flower as early as October and bloom during the winter months—I. unguicularis, sometimes called the Algerian iris. The term Algerian iris is a bit confusing since clones of I. unguicularis are found in the Greek islands, Greece, Syria, Tunisia, and even Turkey.

Lavender Moonbeams (Tasco)--image by Rick Tasco

With plants that grow 12 to 15 inches in height, the flowers can bloom in the foliage. Producing fragrant flowers off and on through winter, the buds are frost resistant though the flowers are not. Unlike most types of irises, I. unguicularis produce flowers over weeks and even months during the winter; however, the plants are loved by snails and slugs, making it necessary to keep the plants free of debris and snails and slugs under good control or they will eat the flowers before you have the chance to enjoy them.

As a plant from dry Mediterranean areas, this iris survive in the summer with only occasional moisture and grows and blooms in poor soil. I. unguicularis is recommended from USDA Zone 7 and higher only. While not widely grown in the United States, the Royal Horticultural Society has named I. unguicularis as one of the top 200 plants in the last 200 years.

Curtis's Botanical Magazine, 1869

Writing in Curtis’s Botanical Magazine in 1869, J. D. H. May noted that information about this iris was “was first published, without a specific name, in 1789, by Poiret, in his Voyage en Barbarie, v. ii. p. 96, and afterwards, first as I. stylosa, by Desfontaines in 1798, and then as I. unguicularis by Poiret, in 1799.” Today I. stylosa is no longer used to describe this fragrant little gem in the winter garden.

There has been some interest in I. unguicularis in what is now known as Silicon Valley for many years; the late Edith Cleaves, of Los Gatos, California, created the varieties 'Edith Cleaves', 'Winter Gay', 'Winter Goldback', 'Winter Memories', 'Winter Mystery', 'Winter Snowflake', and 'Winter Treasure', but they no longer seem to be in commerce. More recently, the noted Central Valley hybridizer, Richard Tasco, best known for creating award winning tall bearded, median, and arilbred irises, has been working with I. unguicularis too. This last year, he raised 600 seedlings.

Image by Rick Tasco

To obtain plants, two sources are available: Superstition Iris Gardens are selling three of the four Tasco varieties this year in 4 inch pots and can be contacted at or search for the Superstition Iris Gardens page on Facebook; Plant Delight Gardens in North Carolina sells them too and they have an on-line catalogue at

Wednesday, February 1, 2017


By Susanne Holland Spicker

'RED SKIES' (Ghio '07)

"The garden:  Where inspiration and creativity begins and it never ends"

This time of year I like to pause and evaluate the previous gardening year. By now in zone 6 the irises have been divided or transplanted into new areas. Perennials were planted in the fall. Poor performers have been moved or composted. Seeds and new plants have been ordered and will be planted in the beds in spring after the chance of all frost has passed.  New iris cultivars have been narrowed down to a few favorites and ready to order for summer planting. This continual evolution of the garden keeps it manageable and fresh.


In a favorite iris bed I like to experiment with shades of pink, red and purple irises. I've then planted several varieties of companion plants among them that have the same bloom period, and similar sun and water requirements.

Tall Bearded irises from top center: 'DANDY CANDY' (Ernst '01), 'OXFORD COUNTESS' (Blyth '07), 'DARING DECEPTION' (Johnson '12), 'TICKLE ME PINK' (Van Liere '11), 'LIMERENCE' (Blyth '09)


I've enlarged the bed several times now because of the sheer number of exceptional iris cultivars in these colors to choose from! I keep a visual record of the irises I have, so when planning for companion plants, I can easily choose appropriate ones. 

Tall bearded irises, top row, l to r:  'EYE FOR STYLE' (Blyth '06), 'RASPBERRY WINE' (Schreiner '01), 'PERSIAN BERRY' (Gaulter '77), 'OXFORD COUNTESS' (Blyth ;07), 'TICKLE ME PINK' (Van Liere '11), 'APRIL FANFARE' SDB, (Black '14), Row 2, l to r: 'SWEETER THAN WINE' (Schreiner '98), 'PLUM PRETTY WHISKERS' (Spoon '03), 'ROMANTIC GENTLEMAN' (Blyth '02), 'LIMERENCE' (Blyth '09), 'MONTMARTRE' (Keppel '08), 'ELIZABETHAN AGE' (Baumunk '05), Row 3, l to r: 'CHANGE OF PACE' (Schreiner '99), 'WEARING RUBIES' (Blyth'00),'FLORENTINE SILK' (Keppel '05), 'EPICENTER' (Ghio '94),'JENNIFER REBECCA' (Zurbrigg '85), 'GAY PARASOL' (Schreiner '74), Row 4, l to r: 'LENTEN PRAYER' (Schreiner '98), 'CHINESE TREASURE' (Blyth '83), 'MACHISMO'(Blyth '04), 'RINGO' (Shoop ;79), 'CAT'S EYE' SDB (Black '02), 'ARTISTIC WEB' (Tasco '10)

A portion of the bed:
Forefront:  'PERSIAN BERRY' (Gaulter '77)

To extend bloom time in the spring garden, I've added several Standard Dwarf Bearded irises (SDB's). They bloom earlier than the tall bearded irises, and are the perfect plant to put in the front of a bed.

'CAT'S EYE' (Black '02) SDB

Pictured below are some of the combinations of color in the bed. Companion plants include foxglove, lupine, poppies, peonies, delphinium, clematis, widow's tears, meadow rue, Asiatic lilies, and Siberian irises. The first flush of hybrid tea roses begin when late blooming irises are still flowering as well.

Tall bearded iris top row, l to r:  'DEEP CURRENTS' (Johnson '09), 'MING LORD' (Blyth '06), 'OXFORD COUNTESS' (Blyth '07), 'LENTEN PRAYER' (Schreiner '98), Bottom row, l to r: 'PLUM PRETTY WHISKERS' (Spoon '03), 'ARTIST'S TIME' (Schreiner '74), 'EMBRACE ME' (Van Liere '08)

From top l to r: 'ROLE REVERSAL' (Ghio '10), 'EXTRAVAGANT' (Hamblen '84),'MIDNIGHT REVELRY' (Schriner '05), Bottom, l to r: 'IN THE MORNING' (Innerst '04),'GITANO' (Keppel '07), 'PARISIAN DAWN' (Keppel '06), Garden bed: f to b: 'LOUISA'S SONG' (Blyth '00), 'POEM OF ECSTASY' (Hagar '97)

Tall bearded irises, Top, l to r: 'APRIL FANFARE' SDB (Black 2014), 'GENIALITY' (Brown '81), 'QUEEN IN CALICO' (Gibson '80), 'CAT'S EYE' SDB (Black '02), 'ROMANTIC GENTLEMAN' (Blyth '02)

Tall bearded irises, top row, l to r: 'PLUM PRETTY WHISKERS' (Spoon '03), 'CLOSE UP' (Tompkins '72), 'BUBBLE BUBBLE' (Ghio '05), Bottom row, l to r: 'DEEP CURRENTS'(Johnson '09),  'SWEETER THAN WINE' (Schreiner '98), garden shot, forefront to back:'DATE BAIT' (Meek '85), 'EVER AFTER' (Keppel '86), 'RINGO' (Shoop '79), 'RASPBERRY WINE' (Schreiner '01), 'ROSE' (Gaulter '78)

As I anxiously count down the days until spring, I'm always glad I've prepared the beds in fall by pruning, cutting down, labeling all plants, and cleaning up and discarding all debris; it makes spring clean up much easier and faster. Doing this decreases the chance of disease or other problems. Having garden maps and pictures to study helps me keep track of each plant--this is what's worked best for me, and if you don't have a system, it may for you, too.  

Tall bearded irises front to back: 'BOLD EXPRESSION' (Ernst '03), 'PURPLE SERENADE' (Schreiner '05), 'MAGHAREE' (Blyth '86)

I've enjoyed sharing some of my favorite irises and their companion plants, but I'd love to hear from you and what you're doing in your flower garden this year. I am always inspired by others and their gardens.  

Tall bearded irises from front left: 'CHAMPAGNE ELEGANCE' (Niswonger '87), 'MIDNIGHT REVELRY' (Schreiner '05), 'LATIN LOVER' Shoop '69), 'GAY PARASOL' (Schreiner '74), 'HEATHER CLOUD' (Hamner '81), 'GITANO' (Keppel '07), 'POEM OF ECSTASY' (Hager '97), 'IN THE MORNING' (Innerst '04), 'LOUISA'S SONG' (Blyth '07) 

Note: For more pictures and ideas on companion planting, go to
 "World of Irises", October 7, 2013 and December 2, 2013