When I studied in England, I visited a well-known garden called Hestercomb on a day in May when the tall bearded irises were in full bloom. In one of the garden rooms I found a long double row of tall bearded iris masterfully arranged in a way where one color family subtly gave way to the next. The border began with mahogany and ended with a blue as pale as a summer sky. In between there were iris blooms of sepia, ochre, gold, yellow and a whole range of blues. In my own garden, I don’t the space to recreate the tall bearded iris planting I saw at Hestercomb, but I have adapted the design’s approach to color. I have found that planting several varieties of all the same color family makes an elegant presentation. One example is where I have selected five different blue iris ranging from the palest, almost white, to azure blue.
When you plant tall bearded iris choose a sunny location. For those living in hot climates a little afternoon shade is beneficial. They like a slightly acidic, well-draining soil. Tall bearded iris grow from a rhizome; it looks similar to a ginger root. To plant, dig a hole and mound soil in the middle. Set the rhizome on the mound with the roots fanned out. Cover the roots and leave the top of the rhizome slightly exposed. Water well. If the rhizomes that you are planting still have their fan shaped leaves fully intact cut back to about half the size before planting.