Monday, June 9, 2014

Breeding and landscaping with Siberian Iris.

Spring notes

After one of the worst winters ever recorded spring has alternated between cold and wet, hot and dry, returning to cold wet conditions. Temperatures moderated to seasonal fluctuations with sporadic heavy rains. After dry conditions in fall and wacky weather conditions this spring many mature clumps of Siberian iris are showing distress. Short stature, bloom within foliage, sometimes near ground level, these are two symptoms of concern.

Rock garden siberian iris
Classic blue-violet
I have been playing close attention to a seedling which germinated in my rock garden three years ago. Siberian Iris are wet meadow plants, mature plants can have drought tolerance. The rock garden is converse environmental conditions, at the edge of the garden and bracketed by a stone sidewalk the heat can be extreme. This Siberian Iris seedling has thrived in this alien environment and flowered this year. The plant with large blue-violet flowers is elegant, the flower form is classic. Overall the flower is not exciting, but heat and moisture tolerance could have breeding potential, it could help increase the southern range of Siberian Iris. This ability to prosper needs further testing and also propagation to ensure it can convey these traits to offspring.

We may also learn something regarding landscaping with Siberian Iris. This seedling is out of scale in a rock garden. In a border this tall plant could fix the middle ground and be the major focus of a late spring garden.

Some Siberian Iris have attractive basal coloring but in my estimation the base is a weak focal point. A wet meadow companion could cover the base. Molinia caerulea ‘variegata’ can mask the base and would also provide variation in foliage, and expand the season of interest. Molinias are native companions to Siberian species.  When the sibs are blooming this Molinia forms a low clump. As the bloom season ends Molinias create tall racemes which reach to the sky providing a tall contrast.

Another native perennial companion are Trollius which thrive in the same meadow conditions of Europe and Asia. I prefer the asian species which show honey petals versus the globe flower of European species and hybrids. The orange or yellow flowers, palmate foliage on a two foot plant are wonderful contrast in color and form. Trollius ledebourii, asiaticus, ircuticus, riederianus and kytmanov can create fields of color with Siberian iris interspersed or as accents in fields of iris.

I encourage my readers to please comment on this article. What companions do you use with your Siberian Iris? I would also love to hear of your experience with Trollius. Please include photos and I will make comments and photos into an edited posting.

Trollius chinensis