Theme Gardens

Fun With Irises: Planning a Theme Bed

As autumn moves in and the iris garden is put to bed for the winter, spring seems a long way off. For those with an urge to do some iris rearranging, or even better, contemplating a whole new bed of irises, a theme bed is a way to bring some fun and a personal touch to your garden. The possibilities are endless. Here are a few to get your creative juices flowing.

Family Theme Bed

One gardener told me she planted a family bed, and included irises from every significant year in the family history: the birth years of her children, herself, and her husband, and also her parents and grandparents; marriage years; years of significant family events, etc. Her children selected their own irises, and as the family grows, their children have added to the bed. Another gardener chose family irises based on the names. This is a fun way to get new iris gardeners involved, as it’s personal right from the start.

Personal Interests

broadway-star-lm.jpgHow about a bed based on music? ‘Chamber Music’, ‘Clair de Lune’, ‘Ragtime,’ or ‘All that Jazz’ would fit right in. Or art? ‘Michaelangelo’ ‘Van Gogh’, and ‘Art of Raphael’ are possibilities. How about a movie and theater theme? ‘Blazing Saddles’ and ‘Broadway Star’ would fit, as would ‘Show Biz’ or ‘Brigadoon’. A theme bed of historical figures might include ‘Lord Baltimore’, ‘Cleopatra’, ‘Lindbergh’, and ‘King Tut’.

Color Themes

This summer I talked with an iris gardener who had planted much of her garden in theme beds. She told me that one of her beds was black and white in theme – mixing near-black irises with white varieties. “It’s really striking,” she said, and it certainly would be eye-catching. Another iris lover described planting a Rainbow Bed, using bands of irises in the colors of the rainbow. Yet another iris lover used varying shades of blue and purple, from light to dark, scattering them throughout a bed. If certain colors call to you, why not used them in a deliberate theme?

For the Kids

rikki-tiki2-lm.jpgMore than one garden has a Storybook Iris Bed. There are lots of possibilities for irises based on children’s literature: ‘Pippi Longstockings,’Cinderella’s Coach,’  ‘Rikki Tikki,’ and of course, ‘Bedtime Story,’ just to name a few. A storybook theme might be a great way to get kids interested in helping to plant irises and watch them grow.  Check out this  wonderful article on Storybook Gardens at the AIS website.

Theme beds offer a lighthearted approach to iris gardening, and the possibilities are endless. Do you have an iris theme garden? Contact Roots at We’d love to share your ideas!

A version of this article appeared in the Fall, 2015 issue of Roots.

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