Monday, February 17, 2014

Pretty Pacificas

By Mike Unser

One of the best things about gardening on the west coast of the U.S. is being able to grow Pacific Coast Irises. These are awesome flowers that come in an array of shapes and sizes naturally, and hybridizers here have created even more variety and range from the numerous species found up and down the coastline. While we wait patiently for spring to bring them around again I thought I'd share a few photos of some of my favorites that I have grown.

This first photo of a clump of yellow in full, riotous bloom is one of my best PCI photos. This seedling was one of the most vigorous and floriferous I have ever grown. It was also one of the earliest PCis to come to flower, extending the season a bit.

Next up is a charming shot of I. douglasiana. This variety is native to Thurston County, WA, though this specific color no longer grows wild here, as the area where it was collected has been developed for decades. Lavender and white versions can be found in the south of the county along the interstate, but as far as I know, this orchid pink is only in gardens now. 

I did not grow many named varieties, as they aren't easy to come by, don't ship and transplant well, and grow so easy from seed. I did have this lovely variety though-'For Ruth' (Roy Davidson, 1979). Just look a the wonderful colors as it lights up in the morning sun. Just perfect.

Another named variety, 'Native Jewel' (Weaver, 1972), shows off the lavender side of the rainbow. This one was well liked for its very upright stems, a trait sometimes lacking in PCIs, which often do like to arc out wide.

I love this photo of 'Poppy' (Edinger/Patterson, 1983). The flower is lovely with wide round petals and a clean clear soft yellow tone, but I also appreciated the beauty of the buds rising together, so I went for this side shot when the opportunity presented.

I'll leave you with a seedling I got at a local plant swap. I am head over heels for the cream and lavender colors on this one. And isn't it pretty with the omphaloides?

I hope you've enjoyed these photos, and if you live in an area with a dry summer- mild winter climate try growing some PCIs in your garden. Seed is readily available from the SIGNA seed exchange each year. 


  1. MIke, I'd like to know more about the Thurston County Iris douglasiana, if you have any details to share. Lovely photos, by the way. Are any of them still available as seeds or starts?

  2. Now that the The Society for Pacific Coast Native Iris has their own seed exchange that is your best place to look for seeds. The SIGNA Seed Exchange does usually have a few PCNI species and hybrids though.

  3. Thanks, Jim. As a member of SPCNI, I am familiar with the seed exchange. What I would like to know is more about this particular iris that Mike posted, which he says is from Thurston County, WA. Iris tenax grows that far north, but I. douglasiana? Details, please, Mike.

  4. Mike, I enjoyed your blog. We have quite a few pacific coast irises at Sissinghurst Garden where I work and it was really interesting to read about them in more detail. Helen (gardener)


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