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Re: Irises & Lilies

At 08:13 PM 7/20/96 -0600, you wrote:
>I am in the process of designing my new iris bed and was wondering what the
>rest of you plant with your irises to bloom after the irises are done?  I was
>thinking of planting different types of lillies.  Would this work or is it best
>to not plant other things among iris?  I love iris but don't want to have a
>whole bed full of green leaves for the rest of the summer.  Your input is
>Kim    :-)

True lilies (not daylilies) need a richer soil than bearded iris do and even
more careful attention to drainage.  Some species tend to 'wander" with
bulbs forming along a running rhizome.  Their stems pop up in unexpected
places. I have L. pardalinum shooting up through some native azaleas.  The
parents were planted about fifteen feet away!   Orientals, some trumpets and
Martagons all need afternoon shade here in Oregon at lower elevations.  All
lilies do best in cool soil.  Lilies sometimes do have their own rot
problems and I do not know what the implications of this are, having never
put them right together in the same bed (scandal!).

My solutions to the problem of too much foliar monotony are not unique. I
cannot imagine being without the special form that iris leaves add to a
garden.  I tend to plant mini-gardens each built up on a small mound.  This
helps with drainage during our relentless winter rain, but also has the
added benefit that I can have an iris-mound next to a lily-mound and vary
things that way, amending soil according to the needs of the plants.  Taller
iris go on top, medians and dwarf vanities go on the sides and this gives
some succession of bloom.  The one problem that I have had with this is that
they do dry out quickly in the summer and are hard to keep watered.  My
mounds for Sibes and Species are lower and richer and mulched.  The first
JI's I planted this way, I lost very quickly. They could not take the rapid
drying even with faithful watering and do fine on the flat areas.

Here, Siberians and the PCI's seem to be the most tolerant of mixed
plantings.  Some of them are even keeping company with a deciduous hibiscus
(H. moscheutos) that does not bloom until August.  For textural variety I
have planted herbs (Rosemary is a good example: its dark green needle-like
foliage is such a nice contrast), dwarf shrubs, and tons of hummingbird
flowers, many of which bloom late.  Salvias are an example of another
high-mileage flower and here they will bloom until frost.  Other
long-blooming companions are the smaller hardy geraniums such as G.
lancastriense (G. sanguineum v. prostratum).  Penstemon hybrids do well with
iris and here they are another flower beloved by the hummers that blooms
until frost. I have decorated our Christmas table in some years with red
pents -they seem to go on forever!  Among some of my beardeds I do have some
Allium tuberosum (Garlic chives) which are also long-blooming with a
succession of pink and white "lollipops" that are edible, but certainly not
a treat for a child.  They are strong!  Someone mentioned dahlias recently,
another late-blooming high-milelage flower available in a spectrum of colors
almost as broad as the iris.

If you do plant your iris in raised beds you can border them with
long-blooming annuals.  Some time ago I made a posting about iris and
pansies, a favorite of some local commercial gardens.  Schreiners has some
Lupines and other tough perennials such as daylilies planted with their
Iris. I have planted sedums and easy alpines such as mat-forming dianthus at
the toes of my beardeds, but have had problems with them getting too
aggressive and becoming a hiding place for slugs.  The blasted gastropods
are one of the reasons to keep other growth away from the beardeds, besides
rot prevention. For some reason, they never eat my spurias, which are
totally bullet-proof anyway.  When I have neglected my weeding and had to go
after monsters among the beardeds, I realize how far out from the fans the
roots spread.  It probably is best not to plant anything on top of these
that would be too competitive. Iris crowded by anything can go on strike and
quit blooming.  

This year has been one of the worst for weeds, the long wet spring after
winter floods and then sudden drying that so quickly baked the soil. The
mounded areas had fewer weeds because they were able to be weeded in the
winter.  The lovely garden on the cover of the new AIS Bulletin shows a good
variety of texture, color and form and makes nice use of those enviable
light rocks.  Low-growing plants set off the beautiful (healthy!) swords of
iris so well in that picture.  I will guess at some of the plants.  One
looks like a cistus? The white might be a candytuft or an alyssum.  Possibly
some California poppies in the background?  Some nasturtiums?  Dwarf cosmos?
These are guesses, but hopefully they and many others would work well.  The
art of gardening is that of orchestration, having things chime in as others
fade out.  One of the challenges is working in time as well as space.

These are just a few suggestions and I hope that others will tell of some of
their favorites.

Louise H. Parsons  <parsont@peak.org>
Corvallis, OR  USA
USDA zone 7 , Emerald NARGS, AIS, SIGNA, SPCNI, transplanted Oregrowian 


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