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Gardening Answers Knowledgebase

Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Iris foetidissima 'Variegata', Foliage plants

I would like to use Iris foetidissima 'Variegata' in large numbers in my landscape.I have heard that this plant is evergreen in our Pacific Northwest winters. As I have never grown this iris, I would love to hear what you have to say. Is it really evergreen? I live in Portland, Oregon. Some people I asked say otherwise.


In my experience, this Iris is evergreen in the Seattle area. Its leaves remain over the winter. The following information confirms this.
From Paghat's Garden, written by a Seattle gardener:
"This thoroughly evergreen iris loves moderate shade but also does well in considerable sunlight. It grows to three feet tall or so, with large evergreen sabres of leaves that simply never fade away in the manner of the vast majority of irises. There is no better iris for a 'permanent' feature of sword leaves, though where winters fall into the teens Fahrenheit, the leaves may be damaged and need to be thinned late in winter to remove injured leaves, being quick to recover in spring. In our moderate winters, Iris foetidissima has no leaf damage in the least."

Portland gardener Ketzel Levine has this to say:
"Like most variegated plants, the striped iris are grown for their foliage rather than for their flowers--which is a good thing in the case of the exquisite though unreasonably rare Iris foetidissima 'Variegata', since its pale mauve flowers are unlikely to attract attention. All the better, though, to enjoy its dramatic eighteen-inch evergreen leaves, brilliant fans of white-streaked foliage that blend with anything in summer, bring drama to winter, and thrive in shade."

Date 2017-05-10
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Garden Tip

Keywords: Foliage plants, Landscape design

New gardeners often focus on flowers and color in their first design effort, only to feel less than satisfied with the floral results. Experts advise us to think about plant form and leaf texture for a design that works no matter what the season. Two books demystify the "designing with foliage" concept:

Dramatic Effect with Architectural Plants by Noel Kingsbury (Overlook Press, $35.00)
The occasional black-and white-photos reinforce the lesson that architectural plants look good without distracting color. Kingsbury explains how shapes are used in the garden and how this design concept works for all garden styles from the Japanese look to Southwest themes. The last section of the book is a mini encyclopedia detailing all the suggested plants.

Foliage: Dramatic and Subtle Leaves for the Garden by David Joyce (Trafalgar Square, $35.00)
Joyce goes farther with classifying types of foliage shapes with poetic descriptions like, 'Needles and Threads' and 'Eggs and Spoons'. A concise list of trees, shrubs, perennials and edibles is provided for each foliage shape. The color photos show off the plants in isolation so readers can focus on the shape and texture.

Date: 2007-04-03
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Garden Tip

Keywords: Athyrium, Foliage plants, Coleus

From knock-your-socks-off colors of Coleus to the dreamy silver elegance of Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum var. pictum), the theme is foliage. Flowers, mostly, are ephemeral. For longer lasting color with less fuss, combine foliage plants in your garden design.

Ornamental Foliage Plants, by Denise Greig (Firefly Books, $45) inspires with a section on foliage plants for specific themes and situations. Judy Glattstein's prose in Consider the Leaf: Foliage in Garden Design, (Timber Press, $24.95) is rich with experience and example, including information about growth habits and care. David Joyce organizes plants by leaf shape and size, texture, color, and overall plant form in Foliage: Dramatic and Subtle Leaves for the Garden (Trafalgar Square Publishing, $35). The highlight of Leaf, Bark and Berry: Gardening with Foliage Plants, by Ethne Clarke, is a plant directory organized by color groups with luscious photos (out of print, but available through online booksellers and at the Miller Library).

On the web, the University of Illinois Extension has an attractive and easy to use Fabulous Foliage website for using plants with colored foliage. Give it a try.

Date: 2007-04-03
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May 31 2018 13:14:08