Monday, December 3, 2012

Luminatas: Iris Color Terminology

By Renee Fraser

Flowers that glow?    LUMINATA.  A wonderful word and so very descriptive of these irises.  A luminata is a white or yellow flower with color washed over it.  The lighter shade bleeds through, which makes the flower look as though it is lit from within. After amoenas, I am in love with luminatas.  I grow a number of them and they never disappoint.  

My very first order of irises included a luminata, 'New Leaf'.  This iris has been blooming its fool head off for me in Southern California for years and years.  It likes it here so much that it reblooms some years!  

'New Leaf' is extraordinarity photogenic, as are most luminatas.  I may have more pictures of it than I have of my dog.

"New Leaf"  Ghio, 1997

'New Leaf' with Marmalade Skies rose and 'Venetian Queen' in the background

'Moonlit Sea' is a justly famous historic luminata that is still a favorite in the garden.  The colors are particularly lovely, and the long romantically draping falls give it an elegant appearance.

'Moonlit Sea' Sass 1942  Photo by Margie Valenzuela

Two more recent introductions with similar coloration are 'Mindreader' and 'Telepathy'.  Margie Valenzuela, a hybridizer who lives in arid and hot Arizona, says 'Mindreader' does better in her heat.  Here is her photo of it in morning sun.


Here is 'Telepathy'.  I am hoping it will give an impressive display this year, its third year in my garden.  Oddly, in my garden this year it rebloomed beginning in November, although it is not normally a rebloomer.

"Telepathy" Keppel, 2002

'Telepathy' in December

Margie also grows 'Flights of Fancy'.  Look at the healthy leaves and the profusion of blooms!

'Flights of Fancy'  

My most recently acquired luminata is 'Daughter of Stars', a rebloomer.  I don't have this color in my garden.  I didn't want this color in my garden.  But how can one stick to a pre-planned color scheme when faced with this?

"Daughter of Stars" Rebloomer, Spoon, 2001

Some people are under the mistaken impression that luminatas have some sort of a virus which results in their lovely coloration.  This is not the case.  Although viruses can cause broken colored patterns, these lovelies get their patterns from careful hybridization, not from disease, so you do not have to resist them for that reason.

Do you grow luminatas?  How do they do in your garden, and which is your favorite?


  1. Great article, and wonderful pics, Renee, and all who contributed!

    I've always loved the luminatas, and Moonlit Sea has always been in my top 5 garden irises.

  2. Thanks for the input, Polly. You garden in New York, right? It's good to know that Moonlit Sea is hardy in your climate.

    1. Yes, NY. I really have never lost many irises, so I don't worry about where they were hybridized. We're actually Z6 up here on the lake.

  3. Both 'Moonlit Sea' and 'Daughter of Stars' perform beautifully in our Zone 4 garden in Northeast Washington State.

  4. Daughter of Stars is a great grower in Southern California. I'm glad to hear it does well in Zone 4.


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