Iris In Landscape Design: Tips On Using Iris In Landscaping

When it comes to flowers, none can more adequately fill this need than tall bearded iris. Only a few clumps of Iris in the landscape design strategically placed are required to put on a “show” in a small garden in late May and early June.

It is not without reason that tall bearded iris have been called the “poor man’s orchid.”

blooming Iris in the landscape Pin

The exquisite beauty, airy grace, and even form bear a strong resemblance to the orchid. In addition, ease of cultivation and adaptability to innumerable garden purposes have given iris a top place among garden favorites.

Provided they are grown in full sunlight, these tall bearded iris may be placed against the house, beside a stone wall or fence, in front of shrubbery, in beds devoted to iris aloneóeither in masses of one variety or in small clumps of many types – or where there is more space, as part of a mixed flower border.

Before planting iris, it is important to visualize them in bloom and plan the effects you wish to achieve even before the first rhizome is purchased.

Iris Planting Ideas

An interesting way to plant them is in small clumps of about three rhizomes of one variety at some focal point in the garden, near the house, against a fence or garden gate, or in front of a flowering shrub that blooms at the same time. These clumps may be planted by themselves or in combination with clumps of two or three other varieties to achieve a specific color effect.

However, in choosing varieties, it is important to remember that iris placed near each other must bloom at the same time and preferably should be of a different height to give contrast in form and color. The iris season may be extended for as long as five-week by a judicious choice of early, midseason, and late varieties.

While no arbitrary rules can be set down regarding the effect achieved by various colors, experience has shown that tall bearded iris of clear colors, such as blue, white, yellow, and purple, should be used for definite spots of color.

Warm Colors

Those of warm colors – reds, browns, tans bronzes, etc. – should be used when they are to be viewed at close range. They are not very good for the general garden effect but fulfill a real purpose when used to enhance the house’s attractive architectural details.

Muted blends and plicatas (iris which have one ground color sanded and dotted with a deeper color) also have a minimal garden effect but are engaging as specimens. Bicolors, such as the white and purple amoena type and the gold and maroon variegata group, should be planted by themselves or with varieties that are the same shade as one of their colors.

Pastel tints such as the new coral pinks with tangerine beards, pale blues, and creamy yellows are good companions or foils for stronger colors. One of our favorite color combinations is a companion planting of iris in medium blue, creamy yellow, and brown. 

Near Flowering Shrubs

Still another effective way of planting iris is to place them in front of, or near, a flowering shrub that blooms at the same time, such as Spiraea vanhouttei, which flowers late in May.

With this shrub, one should use early-flowering varieties of tall bearded iris, and because of its intense whiteness, it is well to place the iris clumps a little to the side rather than directly in front of it.

A beautiful shrub that invariably blooms with the bulk of midseason iris varieties is the lacy dusty pink beauty-bush, Kolkwitzia amabilis. Innumerable combinations of iris suggest themselves.

Flowering somewhat later is the pink-flowered shrub Weigela roses, which could be planted iris of deep rose blend and orchid pink or orange-yellow and deep purple).

To wind up the season, there is mock-orange, Philadelphus coronarius, whose sweet fragrance mingles with the scent of the fragrant iris. Late-blooming iris varieties with yellow and a luminous deep blue blend are attractive complements here. While not all tall bearded iris are fragrant, many of them are, and their delicate scent coupled with their rainbow colors can make even a small garden seem like a little patch of Eden.

Siberian iris, which blooms simultaneously as the late-flowering tall bearded iris, are especially exquisite when planted with Oriental poppies. The contrast in color of the Siberian iris, which comes in clear shades of light to dark blue, white, and purple, with the brilliant reds and pinks of Oriental poppies, is particularly striking.

Before selecting iris varieties for your garden, it is best to see them in bloom. This can readily be done during their flowering season when many iris fanciers and hybridizers throughout the country welcome visitors to their gardens.

Planting Directions

Tall bearded iris responds best when planted in full sun and well-drained soil. The soil should be prepared to receive the rhizomes by being turned and mixed with a bit of humus and bonemeal or superphosphate.

Each “fan” should then be set in a hole about 6″ inches in diameter and about 7″ or 8″ inches deep. Finally, a small mound of earth should be made in each hole to rest the bottom of the rhizome.

The roots of the iris should then be spread out, covered with soil, and tamped down. When the iris is planted correctly, the top of the rhizome will be covered flush with the ground’s surface.

The best time for planting iris is late July and August to make proper root growth before cold weather sets in. It is advisable to cover them the first fall and winter with a little excelsior or salt hay, which may be removed in early spring.

At that time, the plants should be pushed down and firmed. As a protection against the iris borer, an application of a good insecticide, either in the form of dust or spray, is desirable. This should be done at intervals of about ten days from mid-April until the iris begin to flower.