Monday, September 4, 2017

"Talking Irises" DISPLAYING IRISES Using a variety of flowers, vases and arranging styles to beautify our homes

By Susanne Holland Spicker

     (Irises from l to r) 'EXTRAVAGANT' (Hamblin'84), 'JUMP FOR JOY' 
(Hager '99), 'CELEBRATION SONG' (Schreiner '93), 'POEM OF ECSTASY' 
             (Hager '97) with giant allium, ruffled poppy, roses and lupine make
              a colorful floral piece to beautify and bring the garden inside

I have found growing tall bearded irises to be very satisfying. The beauty they bring to the garden beds, the excitement felt when a new cultivar blooms, or the magic that happens when the rhizome planted a few years earlier is now a clump can't really be described--and displaying irises inside brings that beauty and thrill into our homes.

 Tall bearded iris 'LULLABY OF SPRING' (Schreiner '87)
with peony, lupine and columbine

The graceful blooms enhance any home or office, as the flowers lend themselves well to a variety of aesthetically pleasing displays. Here in zone 6, TB irises start to bloom when the late bulbs and the early flowering perennials are in bloom, making it easy to use a wide variety of companion plants in bouquets.

Early blooming tall bearded iris 'GLOBAL CROSSING' (Van Liere '12) 
with late blooming spring tulips, bergenia and English bluebells
and early blooming tree peony, clematis, and lupine  

'SUPREME SULTAN' (Schreiner '88) Photo at the home of Dawn Mumford

Dawn Mumford proves that a lone iris stem can be spectacular to behold in her magnificent display of 'Supreme Sultan'. 

'JESSE"S SONG' (Williamson '83)

A simple arrangement is also beautiful, using just one variety of 'Jesse's Song' in a tall, crystal vase, using the entire stem for height.

A variety of vases, containers, and arranging styles provide a myriad of ways to add interest in iris displays, as seen here in the collage of some of the ways Dawn Mumford has used in her home, as she arranges blooms from her flower garden in these lovely iris florals. For more about Dawn and her amazing iris garden, please visit ("Talking Irises" MUMFORD TALL BEARDED IRIS GARDEN - A LOVE AFFAIR).

Debbie Hughes uses space and greenery to make this stunning focal piece with TB's

Karina Gonzales makes a bold statement with this beautiful arrangement from her flower garden

Pictured below are a few of the favorites I've made using a variety of color palettes.
Tall bearded irises top to bottom: 'QUEEN'S CIRCLE' (Kerr '00), 'CLASSIC LOOK' (Schreiner '92),  'DUSKY CHALLENGER' (Schreiner '86),
  'ALTRUIST' (Schreiner '87) with various Dutch irises and lupine

'LONG EMBRACE' (Van Liere '10) with Pink Hawaiian Coral peony

'QUEEN'S CIRCLE' (Kerr '00), 'PROUD TRADITION' (Schreiner '90), 
'NO COUNT BLUES' (Schreiner '09) with lupine and 'snowballs'

Iris Societies around the globe give the opportunity to enter irises in floral displays. If you're interested, contact your local iris society for details. The following pictures from the Utah Iris Society show how creative one can get when choosing a vase, container, or prop for displaying irises. The variety of form and symmetry/asymmetry of the arrangements show how versatile a floral display can be. NOTE: Names of entrants and irises used weren't available at the time of publication. My apologies to those individuals and my congratulations for their beautiful displays.

Utah Iris Society, 2014 Awards
Utah Iris Society, 2014 Awards
Utah Iris Society, 2014 Awards 
Utah Iris Society, 2014 Awards 
Unlike a show where the display is being judged at a precise time and the blooms are at their prime, irises for arrangements needing to last up to a week or more should be chosen with the future bloom in mind. 

Some tips to remember when preparing and arranging flowers:

  • Pick stems early in the morning, before the sun is out, or, if necessary, late in the evening, when their sugar content is at it's lowest level. 
  • Cut the stem and then re-cut under water. This will keep the channel in the stem open for water to get to the bloom and keep it hydrated. 
'EAGLE'S FLIGHT' (Schreiner '86) 
with assorted purple alliums, lupine and 
Coral Hawaiian Pink peony in bud or just opening stage
  • Choose stems that have buds showing color, or ready to open. 
  • Keep in draft-free areas, out of direct sunlight. 
  • Use a floral preservative, changing the water every day or two, if possible. 
  • Deadhead spent blooms when necessary. 
  • Keep in mind where future blooms will open to insure a pleasing display, as shown in these examples

Day 4 of the arrangement 

 A formal display of early blooming TB's.  Plicata 'LEANNA' (Meininger '97) 
and luminata 'DAUGHTER OF STARS' (Spoon '01) go well with beardless 
Siberian Iris Caesar's Brother, peony Yoshina Gawa, giant allium and lupine.  

 Beautiful true blue 'BABBLING BROOK' (Keppel '66), and
white, flounced and lovely 'MESMERIZER' (Byer '91), with dutch iris, 
peony, allium and lupine.

 'JESSE'S SONG' (Williamson '83)
The first iris to bloom this particular year with the late daffodils and tulips

Simple sprays ready for the grave site on Memorial Day. 
Voluptuous 'WEDDING BELLE' (Keppel '07), plicata 'EPICENTER' (Ghio '94), 
and velvety dark self 'SPECTACULAR BID' (Denny '81)

The complimentary colors of blue 'ABSOLUTE TREASURE' (Tasco '06) 
and luscious coral 'SOUTHERN MORNING' (Metler '11) 
with English bluebells and lupine

A harmonious informal spring bouquet of tall bearded irises, from left bottom to right: 'JENNIFER REBECCA' (Zurbrigg '85), 'SWEETER THAN WINE' (Schreiner '98), 'LATIN LOVER (Shoop '69), 'RASPBERRY WINE' (Schreiner '01), 'CLOSE UP' (Tompkins '72),
'LADY FRIEND' (Ghio ''81), 'CUPID'S ARROW' (Ghio '90)

There is no limit to what you can do when preparing a display of your irises. From the smallest miniature bearded irises to the tall bearded irises, or the stately Japanese irises, and every other iris variety, with hundreds of thousands of color combinations, companion plants, vases, and containers or props, formal arrangements, a stem in a vase, or a spring bouquet--the possibilities are endless!

Do you like to display your irises at home? If so, I'd love to read your comments and see what you are doing with your iris blooms.


  1. Your arrangements are so spectacular and a joy to behold.

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