Is it a Burly Lumberjack or a Colourful Rainbow?
Contributed by: Janelle
Me and My Misconceptions: Alright, it’s not like I’ve never heard of bearded irises before, and they’re some of the most common irises so I’ve probably admired them before without attaching the pretty plant to its weird name, but I’d never given them a second thought. To me, beards have always been for burly lumberjacks—not delicate flowers—so a weird picture had conjured itself in my mind when it came to bearded irises. We’ve got some fantastic varieties at Breck’s, and they are oh so popular in the garden right now, so for the sake of keeping up with trends I did my research.
This flower is a lot more beautiful than what I originally imagined—no axe, flap-jacks or flannel included; a bearded iris is a six-lobed flower, with three petals dropping downwards (the falls) and 3 standing upright (the standards). The beard is a furry section in between the falls and the standards. It’s a beautiful way for an already colourful plant to become even more vibrant. After all, the name for the flower “iris” is derived from the Greek word for “rainbow,” specifically named for their magnificent variety of colours.
So I picked the Breck’s brain for what to do with bearded irises in the garden, and here’s what I found:
My Favourite Rainbow: A fantastic example of why bearded irises are so popular is the Rio Rojo Iris. Rich red, elegantly ruffled standards and falls give way to a yellow and purple beard. This flower’s deceptive; the delicate satiny petals belong to an incredibly resilient plant. Most red irises lose their luster quickly, but the Rio Rojo doesn’t fade. I was told that many good gardens have a few statement makers for a brilliant pop of colour meant to draw the viewers eye. This flower, with its flash of unique colour and intricate structure certainly provides a statement for a garden.
The Statement I’d Make: I asked around the office, and found that my Rio Rojo Iris goes very well with oriental poppies. The Rio Rojo needs full sun, and the Oriental Poppies Watermelon and Helen Elizabeth also do well in full sun. They also bloom towards the end of the iris’s bloom time so as to extend the colour in the garden. I picked these two because they have similar pink-red-purple colouring that would complement the Rio Rojo, though a bit brighter so the deep colouring of the Rio Rojo wouldn’t make the garden too dark. As I said, the flowers will need full sun, but to fill up a shady background I’d plant some hostas. The praying Hands Hosta, (2011 Hosta of the Year) would add a beautiful unique shape to the overall look without taking away from the irises dramatic colouring as they are a rather neutral green. Then, later in the summer when my irises and poppies would be done, my hostas would bring out some lavender flowers to keep my garden colourful.
Do you have a favourite bearded iris or bearded iris companion? Or are you trying to picture a lumberjack iris, too? Comment below and let me know!