The practice of “Companion Planting”, a centuries-old gardening tradition, follows the theory that different plant species, planted close together, assist each other with nutrient production and absorption, controlling pests, attracting pollinators, and other factors necessary for their full productivity. This practice is clearly beneficial in flower gardens as well. When planning your beds, consider water conservation as well as overall aesthetic design.
Ray Schreiner, quintessential plant-lover, has designed the Display Gardens at Schreiner’s Iris Gardens with these companion planting principles in mind. Some of his choices fix nitrogen in the soil, others attract butterflies and other pollinators, some work to control weeds, and some are chosen simply for aesthetic appeal.
Ray plants the Display Gardens with a wide range of sun-loving as well as shade-dwelling flowers. He chooses mainly perennials, but adds some annuals for a quick splash of color along the borders. These give the Iris gardens a balanced feel with their varied heights, colors and shapes, and lengthen the display of blooms from early Spring into late Fall. Some of the companion plants our guests can find in the garden during bloom season include Alliums, Peonies, Icelandic and Oriental Poppies, Delphiniums and, of course, the ubiquitous Lupine. Ray plants flowering trees and shrubs such as Dogwoods, Magnolias, Birch, Willow, Heather and Rhododendrons to round out the park-like setting. Shasta Daisies, Rudbeckia, Reblooming Iris, and Clematis brighten the summer gardens here. “I like to have color all year round,” says Ray. “Too bad there aren’t a few more seasons in the year.”
Some tips to keep in mind as you choose your companion plants:
Plant in zones: Group together plants with similar light and water requirements. Choose a variety of plants with different heights, colors and textures to create interest and beauty.
Choose drought-tolerant perennials, such as: Day Lily, Echinacea, Lavender, Sedum, Gaillardia, Rudbeckia, Phlox, to name only a few. To enhance your drought-tolerant Iris beds, choose perennials that require full sun and that bloom around the same time. Choose other perennials, with low-water needs, to continue the display of color throughout the year.