Monday, November 10, 2014

Lifting, Dividing, and Transplanting Pacifica Iris

Kathleen Sayce

The seasonal forecast for the Pacific Northwest was for a mild, warm, drier-than-normal fall. Hmm. Warm, yes; dry, no. So far we've had a series of storms blow through, each one dropping around two inches of rain. For dry gardens (those that do not get additional irrigation water), this means that Pacifica Iris began putting out new roots a few weeks ago. New white roots means that these plants can be dug up and transplanted. 

'Premonition of Spring' in flower between storms; the flowers aren't perfect due to the weather and slugs, but provide a cheerful corner in the garden during winter. 


Pacifica Iris are notoriously fussy about being moved, particularly in climates with prolonged dry summers. I've mentioned before that checking the roots to make sure that there are 1-4 inch long white (live) roots is important for success. 

New roots on Pacifica Iris fans show that this plant is in active growth and can be moved. 


Today I went out between showers (the thunder, lightning and hail type of showers) to redo a densely overgrown patch of PCI seedlings. Let's not go into why I did not do this two or three years ago. As gardeners know, life often gets in the way of garden plans and ideal timing for gardening activities. 

There are five different irises in this patch:  four seedlings, one of which has not yet flowered, and one named variety. 

What a little procrastination can give you:  a near-solid mass of irises to separate and divide. If I'd waited another year, it might have been near-impossible to divide out the different seedlings. Spuria iris on the lower right (its long leaves were broken down in the last storm), 'Premonition of Spring' on the left, next to the cyclamen, and in the middle, three massively overgrown PCI seedlings. 

One of the seedlings is not going back into the garden. It came to me as orange-flowered I. innominata seed; by the second year it was clear that this seedling is really a Spuria Iris. So it's going south to Los Angeles, to a much warmer climate where it might actually flower.

The clue that this clump is not a Pacifica Iris:  the leaves were three to four times as tall as the other irises around it!


Pacifica Iris clump in the middle, Spuria clumps on the right with their leaves already partially cut back. 

Three of the seedlings are from open pollinated seeds from Debby Cole's garden on Mercer Island, Washington; the pod parent is her vivid PCI hybrid 'Egocentric'. I'm still evaluating the lavender flowered seedlings; the yellow seedling is a nice sturdy plant, and I'm sending starts to other gardens.

One of the lavender-flowered PCIs from an 'Ecocentric' pod parent seed lot. 

Another seedling from the same seed lot; sturdy short plant, waiting to see the flowers for one more season before I decide to keep or toss. 



A yellow flowered Pacifica seedling, pod parent, I. 'Egocentric', from Debby Cole.  This one I will keep. The plant is sturdy, the flowers are held well above the foliage, and are well shaped. 

The fifth iris clump in this patch is 'Premonition of Spring', Garry Knipe's winter flowering selection.  I divided this one into two smaller masses and replanted one near the other. Like Iris unguicularis, it flowers sporadically from fall through early spring. In fact, both clumps (POS and I. unguicularis) have buds or flowers right now, and will flower occasionally during fall-winter-spring months. I plan to move an I. unguicularis clump nearby. 

Once each clump is out of the ground, I use clippers to cut apart the fans. Sturdy rhizomes grow between groups of fans, and my hand clippers easily cut through them. 

A nice pile of more than one dozen fans are going to other gardens. 

After replanting, the plants have room. Next spring I'll be able to see the flowers on each plant more easily, evaluate them, and decide which seedlings to keep. I also found two mesh bags with seeds inside––these are going to be scattered in a patch of native grasses to naturalize.

Lifted, divided, and replanted, and ready to grow on this fall and into next spring.

I was done just in time to avoid the next shower!  


1 comment:

  1. Of course, within weeks of writing this, we are now seeing temperatures in the mid to low 30s! I have no idea if the PCI that I transplanted will survive, as they did not have very long to reestablish roots after transplanting. Argh.

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