Saturday, June 24, 2017

Dancing in the Garden ... Iris sibirica

June breezes waft through our Wisconsin gardens, and our eyes are drawn to spiky foliage dancing gracefully.  Near the top of this plant is an array of blue-violet blooms, each blossom supported on its own sturdy stem.  Although there are numerous varieties within the Iris genus, this particular species (sibirica) consistently stands tall in the garden… and it dances!   Movement in the garden is an essential design element that is sometimes overlooked.   Fit, form and function are necessary in any creative landscape design, but movement makes a beautiful landscape come alive.

While German bearded iris will flounder in strong winds (and often their stems will crimp or bend), Iris sibirica stands tall and continues dancing.   A windy day?  No problem for Iris sibirica!    Rabbits or excessive rain?  Again, no problem.
Originally from Europe and Asia, Iris sibirica thrives here in Wisconsin.  Often called Siberian iris or Siberian flag, this is an adaptable plant which handles clay-based soils, and even soggy soils found in rain gardens.  It has resistance to the insect, iris borer, and is rabbit resistant.  Sun to part shade works well, and it thrives in USDA Zones 3 to 8.  Foliage and flowers generally exceed three feet in height, and this plant spreads in a tidy manner.

My personal preference is to remove most blooms that have faded, but leave a few on the plant to form those amazing green seed pods.    Last year I allowed some pods to remain on the plant until they turned brown and dry; recently I planted seeds harvested from those pods.  These seedlings are now one inch tall and resemble tiny blades of grass.    It will likely be a few years before they are mature enough to produce blooms, but this blue-violet beauty is worth the wait!
Bonus:  Iris sibirica can be included in a butterfly garden or rain garden.

M. Lynn Schmid,   Certified Master Gardener

A.A.S. Landscape/Horticulture/Arboriculture