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

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