Monday, August 10, 2015

Purple Pacific Iris

Kathleen Sayce

Purple is a common color for many species of Pacifica Iris. Color saturation ranges from pale lavender to velvety dark purple. Many wild populations include lavender to purple flowers. Being a common color, you might think that it's boring. Hmm. Not. Between hues, shades and saturation, not to mention veins, signals, petal widths, and ruffles, there's a lot to explore, and more to come from hybridizing. 

This Iris douglasiana selection is short and blooms at the end of the main flowering period, which is June to early July in my climate. Timing makes up for the plain species-like flowers; when this one blooms, other PCIs are done.

As with other flower traits, petal widths, ruffling, signals and veining vary widely in wild flowers and in the garden, where hybridizers continue to push the boundaries on what is possible for iris flowers to achieve.

This orchid-purple iris is from Joy Creek Nursery. It was one of my very first PCIs, and is still one of my favorites. It has striking signals with a dark halo and veins on a light purple base, a yellow streak in the white, and the veins extend into the main falls. 

Sea coast populations of iris douglasiana in northern California include purple-flowered plants. Mendocino Coast Botanic Garden sells seeds from their plants, which grow on the sea cliffs in the botanic garden and seem right at home in my garden, six hundred miles north on Willapa Bay on the south coast of Washington. Similar plants flower hundreds of miles to the south at Pt Reyes, and on down the coast into central and Southern California. These plants are wind, salt and drought-hardy.
Iris douglasiana, from Mendocino Coast Botanic Gardens, has a small sturdy flower on stems held above the foliage. The plant is strong, the flowers are numerous, and the color is a nice medium purple.

A 'Gravitas' seedling has a large flower with a lovely dark color to the petals. 

Strong purples show up regularly in open pollinated garden crosses. I've learned to stop growing them all, lovely as each one is, I aim for sturdy plants with flowers held well above the foliage. This flower, above, was a surprise for its size, more than four inches across with nicely wide falls. 

Another purple favorite is an I. tenax x I. innominata cross, which produced a nice diversity of colorful seedlings, from this purple (below) to white, including some colorful veining variations in between.

This I. tenax x I. innominata seedling is one of five variations from the same seed lot, and shows the most purple. It's a reliable late spring to early summer flowering plant, long after the hybrids are done. 

PCI 'Valley Banner' was selected by Ruth Hardy from plants derived from a wild population of I. tenax x I. chrysophylla in the south Willamette Valley, in Oregon. Falls are white and heavily veined in dark purple; standards are white with narrow purple midrib; style arms are red purple. 

PCI 'Valley Banner' is a well-veined, bicolor combination. This photo was taken by Debby Cole. 

I've mentioned petal widths before, and here again are some of the variations, from wide and ruffly to narrow.

This seedling is almost pink, with a striking purple signal and central pale slash. The ruffles are over the top. This is a PCI 'San Benecio' seedling.

A neighbor showed me his PCIs this spring, and this lovely narrow-leaved specimen grew with more typical I. doug-type flowers. Why do I like narrow petals? They often hold up well in wet weather.

Will Plotner's PCI 'Wild Survivor' is a species-like hybrid with lavender flowers, slightly darker veins on the falls, and a white and yellow signal. This hybrid was a Mitchell Medal Winner a couple of years ago, see below.

PCI 'Wild Survivor' is a lavender hybrid with a species-like appearance. This can be very refreshing among highly ruffled and intensely colored selections. Photo by Richard Richards, from the SPCNI photo collection, thanks to Ken Walker. 

A maiden flower on a seedling from PCI 'Earthquake' at the south end of the yard was a lovely dark purple. The falls are velvety, ruffled, and intensely colored, with rich dark veining over the background color.

Then there is the impact of dark veins on light backgrounds, and complex signals, touched on initially with Joy Creek's orchid PCI, and again here, below, with a hybrid from Southern California. 

PCI 'Daria' has a light purple background, intense veining on falls and a large yellow signal; it's yet another variation on purple.

The take-home message about purple is that this color encompasses a wide range of hues, shades, saturations, and petal forms. As a foundation color PCIs, new variations will keep appearing for years to come. 

1 comment:

  1. Your article on these purple Pacific Irises was so interesting! Thank you--I need to get some!