Monday, June 27, 2016

Phenology of Pacifica Iris during Climate Shifts

Kathleen Sayce

Phenology, or the study of what condition plants are in (onset of growth, vegetative, pre-flowering, flowering, seed set, dormancy) at what date during the year, is fascinating to track during climate shifts. No, I’m not talking about climate change, but about regular weather cycles on the West Coast of North America. 

Iris tenax, wild collected seed from sea cliffs by Manzanita, Oregon, was flowering in June, and now has numerous pods. 
There are several regular cycles that last six months to twenty months or so: 

First, the familiar one–– the annual season, which cycles every year through winter, spring, summer, fall. 

Second, El Niño-Southern Oscillation Events, ENSOs. In the popular press, these are called El Niño, which bring warmer than usual weather to the Pacific Northwest, and range from dry to wet weather in winter depending on ENSO intensity and latitude on the West Coast. California often gets much wetter winters during ENSO events. 

ENSOs alternate with two other weather states over the Pacific Ocean. The other two are La Niña events and ‘neutral conditions’. La Niña events bring colder than normal weather to the West Coast, and neutral conditions in the Pacific are just that, not strongly warmer or colder. These three states of weather over the Pacific Ocean impact weather around the world. The National Weather Service posts intermediate to long term forecasts which can help us see what is coming over the next few seasons. 

Third, there is also a longer weather cycle, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, which typically lasts twenty to twenty one years, warm and dry or cold and wet. In the warm and dry state, the Pacific Northwest has less rain, salmon populations fall as fewer fish reach streams to breed, and ocean conditions are poor for their growth and survival. Snowpacks are reduced in the mountains. At the same time, Alaska and northern British Columbia get the opposite, more rain and cold weather. The flip side is cold and wet in the Pacific Northwest, and warmer and drier to the north. 

I. douglasiana X I. chrysophylla has sturdy spikes with multiple flowers, on a tall plant that grows in dense clumps. I'm planning to divide this one at the next garden redo. 
The Pacific Decadal Oscillation flipped to warm and dry in the Northwest last year, with a strong ENSO event on top of it. We had a long dry summer last year, bracketed by two wet winters. This year saw average snowpack form, but it melted early as the weather warmed. 

What does this mean for Pacifica Iris in northwest gardens?  Flowering begins earlier, progresses faster, and is over earlier in the summer. Pollinators are often out of step with the bloom times, so seed set can be reduced on open pollinated plants, especially for those that are early flowering. 

Grown from SPCNI seeds, this late flowering PCI has unknown parentage, but often flowers into June. Flowers are species like, small and numerous on a medium-sized plant. 
During cool springs and cool to cold weather cycles, Pacifica Iris start flowering in April, peak in May, and continue into July, some years to mid July. During warm dry weather, iris begin flowering in March, peak in April, and are done by early June. This is months later than southern California gardens, and trails northern California by at least six weeks. 

The last Pacifica Iris to flower are a sturdy handful, including two species crosses and a local species. Those lovely frilly hybrids are long past when these irises start to flower. 

Iris tenax from Saddle Mountain, Oregon, also has nice rose-purple flowers.
Iris tenax from Saddle Mountain and the sea cliffs near Manzanita, Oregon, generally starts in May and finishes in June, with rose-purple flowers. 

A cross between I. douglasiana X I. chrysophylla with tall stems and flower spikes, and small dark purple flowers [seed from SPCNI several years ago] is one of my favorite May to June flowering clumps. 

Another cross between I. tenax X I. innominata also from SPCNI, flowers in May and June, and can be stunningly floriferous in cool wet years. I have white, pink-veined, and lavender clumps of this cross. 

Dwarf I. douglasiana is still flowering in late June. Also the slowest to ripen pods, I'll be collecting seeds in September from these plants. 
The last to flower, still in bloom in July most years, is a dwarf I. douglasiana, typically less than twelve inches tall, with sturdy short stems and lavender flowers. This also came from the SPCNI seed exchange, donated by Diane Whitehead from her garden in Victoria, British Columbia. 

Today as I checked the garden [too many weeds getting ahead of me already, ugh] I saw few to no pods on the early flowering irises, but the late flowering irises had many fat buds, already ripening seeds. 

With warm dry weather in store for the next couple of decades, I think it’s time to focus on these late flowering plants for the next generation of new Pacifica Iris in my garden. 

Monday, June 20, 2016



Iris season in Utah has just ended and it was glorious.  I had so many blooms that bloomed for the first time and were stunning.  In my next blog I will share with you some of my favorite new ones, so stay tuned. For now, let's finish the irises my husband and I like to recognize and call Super Achievers. Those are the irises that can always be counted on to bloom well, resist disease, provide beautiful blossoms, make big clumps. We call them our Super Achievers. We like to share this information so those of you who have similar conditions and climate zones (6b) can try planting some of these to get good results. 

Here as promised is part three of the Mumford Garden Super Achievers.  (To review part two click  )  To review part one click here.

I made collages out of each iris and tried to include a distant shot, a shot from a few feet away, and a close-up or two so that you could see the full effect of the iris.

'Babbling Brook' (Keith Keppel, 1965)
This beautiful light blue self is over 40 years old and still stands up well with even the newest irises.   The form is good and the color is just as you see it here.  It is 38" tall and blooms in mid season.  It won a Dykes Medal in 1972.  It has always "super achieved" in our iris patch.    

'Bayberry Candle' (Caroline DeForest, 1966) 
This is one of two irises I have that have a hint of green in it. Admittedly it is olive green but none the less it is unusual.  The colors are more muted than those I usually pick but it takes wonderful pictures and is a welcome addition during mid season bloom.  I can count on it to draw the visitors eye in the garden.  

'Boysenberry Buttercup' (Larry Lauer, 1997)
With 'Best Bet' and 'Edith Wolford' it its pedigree it isn't surprising to get a lovely child.  This iris blooms very early.  Its bloom gets me into the garden, hunting the iris map and trying to mark any unmarked irises. 'Boysenberry Buttercup' has a strong sweet fragrance. It has always performed very well for us here with lots of buds and blooms. 

'Burst Of Joy'  (Schreiner's, 2009)
This was a bonus from Schreiner's one year.  It has bloomed reliably every year since I received it.  My mother-in-law loved the color orchid and she would have loved this iris.  

'Dracula's Kiss' (Schreiner's, 2009) 
This bitone iris is stunning.  The form is good as well as the health of the plant. There has been quite a buzz about this cultivar and I am another to sing its praises.  There is the benefit of purple based foliage which most people find desirable.  

'My Oh My' (Schreiner's, 2007)
This late blooming iris is a welcome mass of apricot color.  The beard is lush and a perfect compliment to the bloom.  

'Rhinelander' ( Schreiner's, 2006)
This lavender bloom is an iris that fades as it ages but on its way, it fades so gracefully.  (I wish I could say the same!)  It fades to a color that makes it look almost antique.  The mass of blooms in the collage above has both old and new blooms in it and still makes a lovely statement.  It is a late bloomer that I recommend if you have similar climate to ours.  

'Rondo' (Schreiner's, 1972)
This red-violet stitched plicata is a child of 'Stepping Out'.  It makes a huge clump and the blooms have great substance.  The stems are 40" tall.  

'Salzburg Echo' (Schreiner's, 2009)
I received this iris by mistake.  I ordered almost exclusively from Schreiner's and Cooley's from 1985 until about 2005.  I ordered a Dykes Medal winner from Schreiner's but got 'Salzburg Echo' instead. When I contacted Schreiner's they told me to keep this one and sent me the iris that I had originally ordered.  I love that kind of service. The best thing about this iris is the heavy substance and beautiful form. 

I have been accused of having a mini Schreiner's garden and I understand why. Schreiner's has been a wonderful company to order from. I just didn't know about all the other wonderful vendors that are out there.  The last ten years I have been ordering from a larger number of vendors.  In my next post I will show you some lovely new blooms from many vendors.

'Victoria Falls' (Schreiner's, 1977)
This beautiful blue iris is one the first to bloom and keeps blooming almost until the very end.  The white spot is distinctive and helps you spot this beauty quickly.  When I put this in the landscape I will put it next to two other irises that have sturdier stems that 'Victoria's' 40 inch stems can lean on.   

We have many more that are Super Achievers but the past 3 blogs give you plenty of samples of what does well here.  'Champagne Elegance', 'Song of Norway', 'Designer Gown' and 'Skating Party' are also super achievers, but I haven't yet found time to make collages for them.

We have been growing irises for pleasure since the mid 1980's.  For that reason there may be some older ones that are harder to find.  You may need to contact the Historic Iris Preservation Society for suggested vendors who may carry the older varieties.  For the link press here .  (My husband and I don't sell any irises). 

Susanne Spicker mentioned in her blog what a banner year 2016 has been for iris here in Utah.  Our garden was no exception.  I have some pictures I can't wait to share next time. Here is a tease:

All but 'Femme Fatal' and 'Prancing Pony' were maiden blooms. 

Did you get any especially nice new irises this year?  I would like to hear about them.   

Monday, June 13, 2016

Classifying Aril and Arilbred Irises

by Tom Waters

If you're even a little interested in arils and arilbreds, you will have noticed that there is a rather bewildering array of terms used to describe them in catalogs, in iris society publications, and in general use among iris growers. In today's post, I hope to help make sense of it all.

The Big Distinction

The most important distinction of all is that between arils and arilbreds. By today's definition, an aril is a species from the oncocyclus or Regelia sections, or a hybrid derived only from these two groups of species. In contrast, an arilbred is a hybrid derived from both arils and ordinary bearded irises (whether tall bearded, median, or dwarf).

Although this seems pretty easy, and these definitions have been official for more than half a century, one still often hears people casually refer to both arils and arilbreds as "arils". This creates a truly unfortunate confusion, especially since arilbreds differ from arils in both appearance and cultural requirements. To emphasize the distinction, you will sometimes hear people speak of "pure arils" to clarify that they are not talking about arilbreds.

A Closer Look at Arils

Aril hybrids are hybrids whose ancestry is only oncocyclus, Regelia, or both. A hybrid with only oncocyclus ancestry is an oncocyclus hybrid (OH), one with only Regelia ancestry is a Regelia hybrid (RH). Simple enough. But there are two terms in use for hybrids that are a mixture of oncocyclus and Regelia: regeliocyclus (RC) and oncogelia (OG). Originally, these terms indicated whether the cross used to produce the hybrids was Regelia x oncocylcus or oncocyclus x Regelia, but that turned out to be an unhelpful distinction. The appearance of the flowers doesn't depend on which direction the cross is made, and once you have advance-generation hybrids, the distinction is impossible to maintain. Today, we use RC to refer to aril hybrids where the Regelia influence is predominant (these are typically 1/2 Regelia or more by ancestry, but it really depends on the appearance of the flower, not the details of the pedigree). OG, naturally, refers to a hybrid where the oncocyclus influence is predominant.

Iris acutiloba lineolata, an oncocyclus
Iris stolonifera, a Regelia

A Closer Look at Arilbreds

Long ago, people used the word "arilbred" to refer to any iris with both aril and bearded ancestry, regardless of how little aril ancestry or aril flower characteristics it had. Today we know that inheritance is through chromosome sets, and a set of chromosomes is usually either passed on to a hybrid as a complete set or not at all. So many older "arilbreds" that were 1/8 or 1/16 aril by ancestry really had no aril content at all!

One of the first initiatives of the Aril Society International after it was formed in the late 1950s was to restrict the definition of arilbreds to irises with significant aril ancestry and significant aril appearance. Today, to be classified as an arilbred, an iris must be at least 1/4 aril by chromosome complement and the flower must show at least two aril characteristics, such as signal or veining. This definition helps protect the distinctiveness of arilbreds as a class.

Another initiative of the Aril Society was to encourage hybridizers to work with arilbreds that had more aril content and appearance. A separate category was created for arilbreds that are at least 1/2 aril, and these are eligible for a special award, the Clarence G. White Medal. Those less than 1/2 aril are eligible for the William Mohr Medal instead. Unfortunately, there is no simple terminology to distinguish these two categories; you just have to say "less than 1/2 aril" and "1/2 aril or more".

One peculiarity of this division is that aril hybrids (pure arils) are also eligible for the C. G. White Medal, because not enough of these are produced or widely grown to merit their own system of awards. I think this has contributed in a small way to the confusion between arils and arilbreds - for a number of years, the American Iris Society used the abbreviation "AR" for both arils and arilbreds eligible for the C. G. White Medal, and "AB" for arilbreds eligible for the William Mohr Medal.

Nine Types of Arilbreds? Yes, Really

Although for awards purposes, the American Iris Society sorts all arilbreds into only two classes (less than 1/2 aril and 1/2 or more aril), the Aril Society uses a more detailed system of categories that tracks not only the amount of aril content, but also the type of aril content (oncocyclus, Regelia, or both).

An arilbred with only oncocyclus and bearded ancestry is an oncobred (OB). One with only Regelia and bearded ancestry is a regeliabred (RB). If both oncocyclus and Regelia ancestry are present, it is an oncogeliabred (OGB). This is by far the largest category.

If the arilbred has less than 1/2 aril content, it is marked with a "-" sign. If more than 1/2, with a "+" sign. If it has 1/2 aril content exactly, neither a "-" or "+" is used.

So all together that makes nine types of arilbred: OB-, OB, OB+, OGB-, OGB, OGB+, RB-, RB, and RB+.
'Bhutan' (Tasco, 2010), an OGB
'Jeweled Veil' (Rich, 1978), an OGB+

A point to note is that since 1990, the amount of aril content is based on chromosome sets, not parentage (which is why the word "content" is used rather than "ancestry"). Although the distinction between chromosome content and ancestry often makes no difference, there are times when it does. 'Loudmouth' (Rich, 1970), for example, came from a cross of an oncocyclus with an SDB. Thus it is 1/2 aril by parentage. However, the oncocyclus parent was a diploid, providing only one set of aril chromosomes, whereas the tetraploid SDB parent provided two sets of bearded chromosomes, making 'Loudmouth' only 1/3 aril by chromosome content. It won the C. G. White award under the old parentage system, but today it is classified as OB-, and would not be eligible for that award.
'Loudmouth', an OB-

Despite all this attention to detail regarding the aril ancestry of arilbreds, no distinctions at all are made regarding the type of bearded ancestry, whether TB, dwarf, or median. Sometimes smaller arilbreds with dwarf or median ancestry are called "arilbred medians", "aril medians", or other similar terms, but these are not official categories.

Finally, here is a chart that tries to make sense of this all:
I hope this post has shed some light on a rather complicated subject. Do you find these categories helpful when choosing and growing arils and arilbreds?

Sunday, June 5, 2016

"Talking Irises" TALL BEARDED IRISES 2016--A banner year

By Susanne Holland Spicker

'LIMERANCE' Blyth 2009 -This first-time bloomer has huge, ruffled falls and wonderful veining
The tall bearded iris bloom here in the top of Utah in the 2016 season was one of the best in recent memory. I had several varieties that bloomed for the first time in the garden, so, as you can imagine, I was excited to get up early and hurry outside to see what was new in the iris beds--it was better than Christmas morning!  
(Back to front) 'LOUISA'S SONG' (Blyth 2000), 'FEATURE ATTRACTION' 
(Schreiner 1994), 'ARISTOCRACY' (Keppel 2006), 'SOUTHERN MORNING' (Metler 2011), 
'EXTRAVAGANT' (Hamblen 1984), 'PARISIAN DAWN' (Keppel 2006),
'WEDDING BELLE' (Keppel 2007), 'EVER AFTER' (Keppel 1986)

I'd like to thank the many hybridizers for their stunning flowers. Their irises have given beauty, lifted spirits, and been a source of enjoyment to so many of us iris lovers over the years, and I appreciate their time and efforts in making the world a more beautiful place. Thank you!
'LENTEN PRAYER' (Schreiner 1998) My favorite iris in this shade--Huge, velvety blooms!
I'm sharing some of my pet blooms from one of my favorite beds. I love this color palette, with rich lavender, purple, rose, soft pink and shrimp shades. It wasn't hard to coordinate a bed of these shades, as there are a host of irises to choose from in these colors. Pictured is a sampling of some of my favorite irises as I walk through the bed. These are ones I especially love.
(Left to Right) 'APHRODISIAC' (Schreiner 1986), 'MAGHAREE' Blyth 1986),

 'BOLD EXPRESSION' (Ernst 2003), 'PURPLE SERENADE' (Schreiner 2005)

'DANDY CANDY' (Ernst 2001) The unique coloring of this iris makes it a visitor's favorite!
'OXFORD COUNTESS' (Blyth 2007) This huge, magnificent bloom takes your breath away!
(Forefront) 'PLANNED TREASURE' (Burger 1985), 'CENTER ICE' (Ghio 2010),  'GITANO' (Keppel 2007), 'FLORENTINE SILK' (Keppel 2005),

 'MIDNIGHT REVELRY' Schreiner 2005)
'FLORENTINE SILK' (Keppel 2005) A well-deserved award winner. Very reliable and prolific and one of my favorites in these colors
'DARING DECEPTION' (Johnson 2012) This iris stands out in the garden. Wow!
'ROMANTIC GENTLEMAN' (Blyth 2002) A clump of this is stunning!

'LOUISA'S SONG' (Blyth 2000) Always perfect blooms on sturdy stems
'PHOTOGENIC' (Ghio 2006) Aptly named, this iris is a favorite to photograph
'Kitty Kay' (Keppel 2002) Perfection! 

'CENTER ICE' (Ghio 2010) This first-time bloomer had an especially long flower life. Gorgeous blooms!
'ZANDRIA' (Nebeker 1996) I love the colors on this beauty--the beard is striking!
'PLUM PRETTY WHISKERS' (Spoon 2003) I got this because of an iris friend--and it didn't disappoint.  Beautiful!

'EYE FOR STYLE' (Blyth 2006) Outstanding color on this huge beauty! I love the shade it fades to over time, as shown in this photo
'MING LORD' ( Blyth 2006) With beautiful, velvety falls and bright beard--excellent!
'PERSIAN BERRY' (Gaulter 1977) Another favorite I got because of an iris friend. The soft shades and markings on the haft of this beautiful iris are unique. Thanks, Renee!
'FANCY STUFF' (Brown 2001) If you love lace, this is for you. Beautiful in every way! Opens up nicely.
'ELIZABETHAN AGE' (Baumunk 2005) This iris is a long bloomer. Lovely!

Some of these may be new to you; others I'm sure are on your list of favorites, too. 

What were some of your favorite blooms this year? Was it a good year iris season in your area?  I'd love to hear from you!