May 4, 2011

Louisiana Iris for Water Features

Not all of my garden is growing on dry land.

Within the cottage garden flows our manmade stream that receives full sun. A small section was created to grow water garden plants. With the water constantly in motion, I grow sturdy plants that can take the currents, or can be sunk (pot and all) into the stream. The motion of the currents makes it difficult to grow water lilies.

The color scheme for the flowering water plants is blue and white, to coordinate with the surrounding land-lubbers on the banks of the stream and in the background.

A small, but deep bend in the stream
is suitable for growing sturdy water and marginal plants such
as Louisiana Iris, calla lily, white butterfly ginger
and the native Great Blue Lobelia.
There are two early bloomers in my stream—Louisiana iris (blue) and calla lily (white). In summer, a pot of Great Blue Lobelia will bloom, followed by the white butterfly ginger in August. While the blooms aren't going to be shop-stopping, the foliage alone provides a bit of interest in the water feature until I cut back any brown foliage.

Space is very limited in the stream and the Louisiana irises (a native plant from Louisiana) expand rapidly and I will eventually have to keep the clump in check. This is a consideration if you decide to grow any water plants in a native pond. My plants cannot escape into the wild since they are contained in a manmade area that does not feed into a natural water source.

I planted the irises directly into the stream, using rocks to anchor the roots until they were firmly established. Pots can also be used, immersed in water and held down by rocks to keep the pots from floating away. The Great Blue Lobelia is planted in a pot with the top completely submerged. There are also mesh bags that can be purchased to anchor plants in water or bog gardens.

The blooms last one day, but as long as foliage stays green and pretty, I don't cut them back. I do not lift the irises in winter as they overwinter in the water without any difficulties in my zone 7b area. I keep them in situ all the time—even when we unplug the stream pump to stop the flow of water. Because this is the deepest area in the stream, there is always water collecting here when the pump is off.  These irises are suitable to bogs, too.

There are now many hybrid varieties of Louisiana irises available from specialty growers. I purchased an iris locally and it was labeled as "Blue Louisiana Iris." Therefore, I do not have the complete information about this plant. My uneducated iris guess is that it is probably the native, iris giganticaerulea Small (giant blue iris), not a hybrid.

I want to learn more about the iris hybrids as they are available in interesting colors (link is for information purposes and I have not ordered from this iris farm) such as red, purple, white and yellow. While they are great for water and bog gardens, you can grow Louisiana iris in garden soil with watering and feeding.

Given the rapid rate of growth and expansion, my small planting area in the stream will soon be filled with the blue Louisiana irises and I'll have no space for all those interesting cultivars!

Louisiana iris; May 2011

The irises will eventually expand
to fill this small space in the stream.
A Great Blue Lobelia (native) is growing
in a pot to the right of the main iris clump.

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks, copyrights, or patents owned by those respective companies or persons.
Freelance travel writer. My current fiction writing projects include a completed manuscript and several works in progress.

By the way, my name is pronounced fred-ah, not freed-ah. Thank you.

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