Irises forum: Irises in the mixed garden- combos, companion plants, design ideas, culture

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Name: Neal Linville
Winchester, KY (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Bulbs Cottage Gardener Roses Irises
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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gemini_sage
Jan 1, 2015 4:36 PM CST
For me, no perennial garden is complete without at least a few Irises, and there are so many species, forms, hybrids, colors, sizes, and bloom times, they can be incorporated into a design to fill many needs. Like many plant species that have garnered widespread popularity, extensive hybridization work has given us literally thousands of varieties to choose from. Some, however, are better suited to the mixed garden than others, so one thing I'd like to hear from others on, is varieties that thrive happily among other plants. Many bearded varieties are iron clad, and can grow among thick grass, but others do not tolerate competition well. I know all too well my penchant to crowd things a bit, so I go for varieties that are known to multiply quickly and grow vigorously.

A design quandary I run into is with muted tones of many bearded Iris varieties. Many gorgeous ones have beige, grayish, brownish, or rusty colors, that look dirty if paired with clear, bright colors. While I have found colorful foliage plants often look great with them (Heucheras work amazingly well with many), I'm curious about other flowers that combine well with them. I've ordered a Rose that I believe will combine well, called 'Caramella'

I generally mulch my gardens, and while most beardless varieties seem to like mulch, most sources advise against mulching bearded Irises. I generally just mulch around the outside of clumps, and don't run into problems, but I am careful with newly planted rhizomes to keep them from getting covered up. Garden pictures I browse typically show use of mulch, and many have beautiful bearded Irises incorporated. Here again, it may be a matter of using varieties that tolerate mulch the best, but I am curious how others deal with this. I have found that as the mulch decomposes, the rhizomes seem to like to grow right on top of it and the clumps spread outward.

I'd like to hear about your favorite combo plants, how you handle cultural issues, and your favorite ways to incorporate Irises into your garden design Smiling

"...and don't think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It's quiet, but the roots are down there riotous." Rumi
Name: Bonnie Sojourner
Harris Brake Lake, Arkansas (Zone 7a)
Magnolia zone
Region: United States of America Region: Arkansas Master Gardener: Arkansas Irises Bulbs Seed Starter
Gardens in Buckets Garden Art Plant and/or Seed Trader Moon Gardener Garden Ideas: Master Level Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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grannysgarden
Jan 1, 2015 4:47 PM CST
I love poppies with irises and I grow alliums with irises too. Thornbird, one that has the muted tones you mentioned, is a cast iron iris for me and looks great with purple sensation alliums.
I love my garden.... and Jesus, and coffee, and naps.......
Name: Leslie
Durham, NC (Zone 8a)
Region: North Carolina Irises Cat Lover Garden Photography Enjoys or suffers hot summers Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Lestv
Jan 1, 2015 10:15 PM CST
Neil - I hope this thread gets lots of responses because I am curious what mix of plants others are growing between and around their iris. Except for one bed where my iris are sharing space with spider lilies and flowering ginger that bloom later, all my iris beds are just iris.
My road calls me, lures me west, east, south & north; most roads lead men homewards, my road leads me forth. - John Masefield
Name: Sherry Austin
Santa Cruz, CA (Zone 9a)
Region: California Irises Keeper of Poultry Roses Dragonflies Birds
Bulbs Foliage Fan Photo Contest Winner: 2015
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Henhouse
Jan 2, 2015 2:03 AM CST
I'm having a bit of a quandry w/ some of those colors too Neal... I suspect the darker purples would look good with the grey toned Iris. There are some roses with tan or grey overtones too. Hot Cocoa has a lot of brown in it. I can't get a picture that is entirely accurate, but this one
Thumb of 2015-01-02/Henhouse/bf4790

Some of the things that bloom at the same time in my garden: Digitalis, Heuchera, Roses, California poppies, Achillea, Alstromeria, Phlomis, Cerastium, Spanish lavender, Cerinthe, Iberis, some of the Daylilies, Calendula, Nepeta, Salvia greggii, Chionanthus retusus, some of the Viburnums and Spireas, Leptospermum.. Wisteria and Lilac with the earlier Iris..
There are Iris in and amongst the roses etc..
Thumb of 2015-01-02/Henhouse/7ac311

I like the Achillea 'Moonshine' and Calif. Poppies in this picture w/ 'Spooned Blaze'
Thumb of 2015-01-02/Henhouse/38cc79

Because of our drought, I mulched my beds pretty thoroughly this year. I used wood chips, but didn't put them directly over the rhizomes. They have a way of shifting around, and I've been clearing them off as I've been cleaning up the foliage and weeding.

When counting, try not to mix chickens with blessings.

Region: California
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UndertheSun
Jan 2, 2015 2:50 AM CST
Again I must say....Sherry, I love your garden! Thumbs up

Nice thread idea Neal! Thumbs up I'll be keeping my eye on this thread for companion plants too.
Name: Bonnie Sojourner
Harris Brake Lake, Arkansas (Zone 7a)
Magnolia zone
Region: United States of America Region: Arkansas Master Gardener: Arkansas Irises Bulbs Seed Starter
Gardens in Buckets Garden Art Plant and/or Seed Trader Moon Gardener Garden Ideas: Master Level Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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grannysgarden
Jan 2, 2015 7:29 AM CST
The nice thing about companion plants for irises in this zone is bloom time goes from late February when you can plant the bulbous irises among a sea of grape hyacinths or crocus to the late blooming TB's in early June to catch the first of the early roses. I put creeping or moss phlox along the edges of the iris beds. The phlox makes a tight groundcover that I keep away from the rhizomes and the bloom colors ranging from white/pinks/lavenders go very well with brighter shades of dwarf irises.
I love my garden.... and Jesus, and coffee, and naps.......
Name: Mary Ann
Kentucky
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Region: United States of America Hostas Hummingbirder Daylilies Birds
Irises Keeps Horses Region: Kentucky Farmer Container Gardener Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Muddymitts
Jan 2, 2015 7:50 AM CST
Many of my Iris beds are backed by peonies and daylilies, and interspersed with daffodils. I also have dianthus tucked in front at intervals.
Thoughts become things -- choose the good ones. ([url=www.tut.com]www.tut.com[/url])
Name: Debra
Garland, TX (NE Dallas suburb) (Zone 8a)
Service dogs: Angels with paws.
Dragonflies Dog Lover I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Photography Bee Lover Plays in the sandbox
Butterflies Region: Texas I sent a postcard to Randy! Charter ATP Member Annuals Garden Sages
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lovemyhouse
Jan 2, 2015 8:31 AM CST
Neal, isn't the concern about mulch to do with too much moisture retention causing rot? I mulch everything for at least the first year because of our drought and heat. This upcoming year will be my first with quantities of new Iris, though, so I will have more information then. With the exception of the new Iris beds, very little of what I plant is placed with an eye to color. Mostly, it is a matter of contrasting texture, how tall and wide does it get, does it have thorns to avoid, and, hey, it will fit raht-cheer. Have Daylilies, Lemon Thyme, Dianthus, Mexican Heather, and Strawberry Fields Gomphrena in multiple places, so there is a bit of consistency. Also like to use Gaillardia (as an annual in my yard because they don't like clay), Echinacea, Gazania, Daisies, Asiatic Lilies, and greggii Salvias.
If you don't ask, the answer is always 'no.'
Name: Neal Linville
Winchester, KY (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Bulbs Cottage Gardener Roses Irises
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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gemini_sage
Jan 2, 2015 9:07 AM CST
Bonnie, Thornbird is one of those I'm looking for companions for- the plum color of Allium is a good idea! What varieties of Allium do you grow? Some of the larger ones seem to decline over time for me, are some reliably perennial for you? I love Poppies too, and there are some Oriental Poppies on the market that appear to have some muted coloring, 'Manhattan' being one I've got my eye on. They look more pink in some pics though. The coral pinks of Poppies are great with a lot of those shades of Irises. If had had raised beds, I would use lots of creeping Phlox with beardeds- I do love that combo!

Sherry, I LOVE your gardens! I could tell from several of your Iris pics that there was a lot of beautiful stuff going on just outside the frames of the pics. The way you've designed it so that there is plenty of space between plants not only shows the clumps and whole plants off well, but is culturally wise- I think that's a key to using TBs in the mixed garden. I see you also use a lot of Geranium biokovo 'Karmina', which is one of my favorites with Irises! I've had Hot Cocoa on my list for years (I halted bringing new roses to the garden for a few years till I could eradicate Rose Rosette Virus, but it's been over a year since I've had a new infection, so new roses are on the way Hurray! ). Because I'm such a sucker for bright, clear colors, I've looked over a rose called 'Distant Drums', but considering muted color combos, I think I need to consider it:

With weather patterns being so wonky and unpredictable, I never really know what is going to bloom together from one year to the next. Some years the TBs bloom with many of the Roses, others they bloom well before Roses while late Tulips are blooming. I typically choose a color scheme for an area, and choose plants with bloom times throughout the season that fit. That way whatever happens to bloom at the same time will coordinate.

There are lots of color patterns among Columbine that work nicely with TBs. I love those I already grow, and would like to try some others.

Considering late Tulips, which often bloom with many TBs, have any of you checked out the brownish colored Tulips that Old House Gardens offer? I've found them intriguing, but wouldn't they be scrumptious with autumnal toned Irises!
"...and don't think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It's quiet, but the roots are down there riotous." Rumi
Name: Neal Linville
Winchester, KY (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Bulbs Cottage Gardener Roses Irises
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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gemini_sage
Jan 2, 2015 9:16 AM CST
Debra, I was thinking that mulch would be a good thing for dry areas, and rot wouldn't be such an issue there (except maybe in winter?). I think my thing with color harmony comes from being a floral designer- I'm downright OCD about it, LOL! And if I'm looking at a beautiful bloom that isn't displayed to its full potential, it bugs me till I get it right. Sometimes getting it right, is simply removing the plant. I have a MDB that is an odd shade of blue-gray. It is lovely and unusual, and puts me in mind of the color of the sky on a cloudy day just before it rains, but I can't find anything that looks good with it. I'm going to try some kind of Brunnera with it with silvery markings in the leaves- if they bloom at the same time it should work. That will be the last chance for that Iris, LOL.
"...and don't think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It's quiet, but the roots are down there riotous." Rumi
Name: Debra
Garland, TX (NE Dallas suburb) (Zone 8a)
Service dogs: Angels with paws.
Dragonflies Dog Lover I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Photography Bee Lover Plays in the sandbox
Butterflies Region: Texas I sent a postcard to Randy! Charter ATP Member Annuals Garden Sages
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lovemyhouse
Jan 2, 2015 9:30 AM CST
What is the Iris? So I know if I should ask you to keep me in mind if you decide to rehome it. Big Grin

What colors would make a good contrast with it? Is there a chartreuse, maybe, that might set it off like a frame? Here is Golden Oregano. Makes a nice groundcover.
Thumb of 2015-01-02/lovemyhouse/19adf4 Thumb of 2015-01-02/lovemyhouse/5fd58c

I tried to keep color compatibility in mind with the new Iris beds. Microsoft Publisher, Picasa photo editor, and the web were useful tools to make visual maps before planting.
Thumb of 2015-01-02/lovemyhouse/1125ec Thumb of 2015-01-02/lovemyhouse/af54bc

If you don't ask, the answer is always 'no.'
Name: Bonnie Sojourner
Harris Brake Lake, Arkansas (Zone 7a)
Magnolia zone
Region: United States of America Region: Arkansas Master Gardener: Arkansas Irises Bulbs Seed Starter
Gardens in Buckets Garden Art Plant and/or Seed Trader Moon Gardener Garden Ideas: Master Level Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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grannysgarden
Jan 2, 2015 9:33 AM CST
If that little iris multiplies and you need to find some of it a home you know you have help here. LOL An MDB is harder to pair as it is such an early bloomer I do not have as many other plants blooming at that time. If I could make a suggestion, before you make a decision about the little iris pot it and then when it blooms move the pot about to see what goes with it. Many times an iris from a distance looks better than when viewed up close. Of course, the opposite is true also.
I love my garden.... and Jesus, and coffee, and naps.......
Name: Celia
West Valley City, Utah (Zone 7a)
Pour vivre parmi les fleurs
Irises Garden Photography I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Butterflies Birds
Cat Lover Enjoys or suffers cold winters Hummingbirder Plant Identifier
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Zencat
Jan 2, 2015 9:42 AM CST
I have one bed with Irises and Peonies together. They usually bloom at the same time. Grape Hyacinth are in the same bed.

Thumb of 2015-01-02/Zencat/47933e

Name: Neal Linville
Winchester, KY (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Bulbs Cottage Gardener Roses Irises
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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gemini_sage
Jan 2, 2015 9:53 AM CST
Deb, you're good! Excellent organizing method. I'll look through my records and see if I can find a name for that little Iris, but you and Bonnie are more than welcome to some rhizomes- it increases well. It doesn't really show any yellow, I that Oregano may be too bright for it, but it sure is a pretty plant! I've never seen it, but it would look gorgeous with another MDB I have that is yellow and white with blue beards!

Bonnie, that's a good idea. I have plucked a bloom and walked around the garden holding it up to other plants, but you're right about sometimes they look better from a distance. Potting it would help seeing it in the big picture.

Celia, I love Peonies too, and I've always thought of Peonies and Irises as the stars of the late spring garden. They offer such a nice contrast of forms- a classic combo Smiling
"...and don't think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It's quiet, but the roots are down there riotous." Rumi
Name: Neal Linville
Winchester, KY (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Bulbs Cottage Gardener Roses Irises
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Image
gemini_sage
Jan 2, 2015 11:08 AM CST
Just browsing recent photos added to the data base, I immediately see many bearded varieties that are lovely, but leave me wondering what to combine with them.



I find mustard gold and butterscotch tones hard to combine too. Often a bright contrasting beard inspires good ideas for companion blooms, but in the case of 'Feel the Heat', above, I wouldn't be inclined to combine periwinkle with butterscotch and rust. While I really like it, I would pass on introducing it to the garden...because my head would blow up, LOL
"...and don't think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It's quiet, but the roots are down there riotous." Rumi
Name: Neal Linville
Winchester, KY (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Bulbs Cottage Gardener Roses Irises
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Image
gemini_sage
Jan 2, 2015 11:13 AM CST
Champagne Elegance is one I have in the garden, that has been moved around a lot trying to find just the right home for it. Lovely, heavy bloomer, clumps quickly, nice ruffles- I want to keep her around, but it has been a challenge making her show off to full potential.
"...and don't think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It's quiet, but the roots are down there riotous." Rumi
Name: Bonnie Sojourner
Harris Brake Lake, Arkansas (Zone 7a)
Magnolia zone
Region: United States of America Region: Arkansas Master Gardener: Arkansas Irises Bulbs Seed Starter
Gardens in Buckets Garden Art Plant and/or Seed Trader Moon Gardener Garden Ideas: Master Level Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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grannysgarden
Jan 2, 2015 11:17 AM CST
Too funny, Neal! When you get a plant that is small and has the possibility of several pairings try it in different locations with only one of the desired colors at each.... we do not want your head to blow up. lol
I love my garden.... and Jesus, and coffee, and naps.......
Name: Lucy
Hamilton, MA (Zone 6b)
irises
Charter ATP Member Cottage Gardener Enjoys or suffers cold winters Region: United Kingdom Region: Northeast US Irises
Region: United States of America
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irisarian
Jan 2, 2015 11:24 AM CST
Most famous mixed plant display garden is that of Schreiners. the use lupin (taller) & Cal poppies, shorter than iris plants. Main thing on a mixed iris garden is not to shade the rhizomes. Since we are iris judges & hybridize, our iris plants are by themselves.
Name: Debra
Garland, TX (NE Dallas suburb) (Zone 8a)
Service dogs: Angels with paws.
Dragonflies Dog Lover I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Photography Bee Lover Plays in the sandbox
Butterflies Region: Texas I sent a postcard to Randy! Charter ATP Member Annuals Garden Sages
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lovemyhouse
Jan 2, 2015 11:37 AM CST
I was given Champagne Elegance this year. Looking forward to seeing blooms.

The one that strikes me is Samba Queen with Dark Towers Penstemon. Think the Penstemon foliage would be a nice complement to the falls of the Iris.
If you don't ask, the answer is always 'no.'
Name: Neal Linville
Winchester, KY (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Bulbs Cottage Gardener Roses Irises
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Image
gemini_sage
Jan 2, 2015 12:32 PM CST
Bonnie, I do love to spread clusters of the same variety here and there, that echo of the same plant is visually unifying to my eye.

Lucy, I LOVE Schreiners display garden pics! I've always longed to be able to grow Lupines here, but their gardens make me ache for them. I've certainly tried enough times, but I'm a bit too far south for them. Those gardens look like they're planned for that one big show, I'm guessing they're not very colorful the rest of the year. I dream of a garden that full of blooms throughout the growing season! ...ahhh...winter is for dreaming Smiling

Deb, that's a great idea about Dark Towers- burgundy foliage is a favorite of mine with Iris tones like that, but the added bonus of the pastel blooms gives a nice floral accent as well. You've just inspired me to move my Dark Towers- they don't really show off or do anything for their neighbors where I have them now. In the area where I have several burgundy, beige, and dusky colored Irises, I now have Periscaria 'Red Dragon' among them, which works nicely, and Dark Towers will be right at home.
"...and don't think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It's quiet, but the roots are down there riotous." Rumi

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