Monday, March 19, 2018

Looking to the Future of Mohr-type Irises

By Bryce Williamson

In my recent blog, The World of New Exciting Mohr Type Irises, I wrote about the recent introductions and their much more aril like appearance; today is the chance to learn about what the future has in store.

Paul Black wrote to me, "W306A which is a beauty is from ‘Energizer’ X TB seedling.  It looks like a good 1/2 to 3/4 bred."

Black W306A--image by Paul Black

Rick Tasco kindly provided information about his work with Mohr types: “Virtually all of the aril-median crosses I make are between 1/2-breds and SDBs, either reblooming SDBs or SDBs with large and bright spot patterns.  This has worked out very well for me.  We need to get more rebloom in the aril-medians.  I have a very strong reblooming aril-median that I’ll be introducing next year (2018).”

To whet our appetite, Rick provided images of some of his best selections.

Sun and Snow (Tasco '18)--image by Rick Tasco

Scheduled for introduction in 2018, this Mohr-type is a very strong rebloomer in its home garden, opening new possibilities for extending the season.

Tasco 15-AM-07-27--image by Rick Tasco

There is something about this color combination that I really like.

I have written about the value of yellow in irises and the next two seedlings will bring sunlight into the early spring garden even on a rainy day.

 Tasco 15-AM-01-16--image by Rick Tasco

Tasco 15-AM-11-17--image by Rick Tasco

Rick's next two seedlings show the value of crossing medians with spots with arilbreds.

Tasco 15-AM-03-16--image by Rick Tasco

Tasco 15-AM-03-03--image by Rick Tasco

The future of this old class of irises seems bright with hybridizers using new ideas and new blood to revitalize Mohr-types.

At this point, there are only a few sources for plants. Two reputable sources are Mid America and Superstition. Click on the nursery name and it will take you to a link where you can find out more information from the garden owners.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Pondering Pacifica Iris and Voles

Kathleen Sayce 
January 27, 2018

It is winter, and for the coastal Pacific Northwest, this means sleeting rain with the occasional snow shower, hail shower, thunderstorm, high winds, and flooding. Bottom line:  Not a lot is getting done outside in the garden. Iris unguicularis puts up flowers every week, only to have the wind and rain smash them flat within days. 

Between rain squalls, I went out to check on Iris hartwegii australis in its planter under the eaves—and it looks quite happy. There are double the number of fans from last year—and I’m hoping for flowers. 

Iris hartwegii australis--happy in its planter under the eaves. The three main shoots of last year are replaced by more than seven this winter. 

Last summer while harvesting iris pods for the SPCNI seed exchange, I saw a vole cleaning seeds from those same pods. It squeaked and dove off. These voracious herbivores do far more damage in my garden than I had previously realized:  
 *   Native West Coast bulbs that keep disappearing? Voles. 
 *  Ditto for Crocus and Lilium. More voles. 
 *  Rainlilies, which poke leaves up one day, only to have them vanish that night? Right again, voles. 
 *  The iris seedling pots and planters that are excavated one night as the seeds are starting to germinate? Yes, voles, expletives deleted. The last probably have some help from squirrels, crows, and jays.

Hypertufa planter with wire mesh cap, and inside,
Pacifica Iris seeds, soaking up winter rain
and getting ready to germinate. 

Voles tend to leave iris flowers and fans alone, but eat seeds and seedlings. I wonder how many species I’ve lost to them? All but two areas of Crocus are gone. As are Tulipa species bulbs—vanished by the dozens. Voles leave Alliums alone, mostly, and so those are doing well, as are the toxic bulbs of Hyacinthina, scillas or bluebells, which thrive here by the thousands. 

There are many potential vole reducing strategies. Mint-oil scented granules are apparently attractive to them; they cart off any that I apply, overnight. Cats aren’t determined enough to keep voles out of flower beds, and I like to birdwatch, so outside cats would defeat that activity. Terriers are excellent rodent hunters, but their indiscriminate digging is discouraging to any gardener. Haven’t figured out how to entice weasels to nest and breed here—though the years when we had resident weasels was also an excellent period for rodent suppression. When we rebuilt my cold frame, we added mesh panels, to protect the plants inside year round, and now finally have thriving, and flowering rain lilies.

I have plotted some strategies and am implementing several:  Wire cages, castor oil based deterrents, and gravel. New lilies went into wire mesh boxes underground, surrounded and capped by inches of gravel. Same for Crocus, Triteliaea, Dichlostemma, and other tasty bulbs and seeds. Pacifica Iris seeds are in hypertufa and stryofoam planters, with wire mesh caps. Over all garden beds, I am spreading castor oil mole-and-vole-deterring granules. 

Vole-resistance:  wire mesh box to bury in ground, and plant edible bulbs inside. For more deterrence, add a layer of gravel on top. 

The potential is what all gardeners want—better odds for a more floriferous garden in coming seasons. We’ll learn how these strategies work in a few months. 

The vole hazard here is probably due to location, which is next to a salt marsh in a temperate climate. Several vole species live in the marshes, and breed from March to October. The loss of even one key predator in a specific area means that voles can breed more quickly. Also, populations tend to peak every three to five years, thus my garden was overrun this year.  

Monday, March 5, 2018

New Color Combinations in Plicatas 2

Editor’s Note: In recent blogs, Bryce Williamson wrote how the first good pink plicata, April Melody (Iris Stories: April Melody and Iris Stories: April Melody 2), expanded the range of colors in that group. Today’s hybridizers  have been  combining plicata patterns with other tall bearded iris patterns, taking plicata irises in new and exciting directions. Keith Keppel here shares a peek at some these developments in his Salem, Oregon, garden. Please remember, however, that these seedlings represent work in progress and most will not make the cut to naming and introduction based on plant growth or other factors.

By Keith Keppel

Any time the plicata pattern overlays a colored ground, there is a change in the ultimate color effect. Here in 12-103H, the blue plicata is superimposed on a yellow amoena. Note how the fall edging appears more purplish, and on the hafts, where the yellow is strongest and the blue heaviest, it takes on a reddish tone.

Pattern of plicata, pattern of ground, plus color of pattern, color of ground. So many possible combinations! This is what makes breeding plicatas so much fun:  a row of seedlings is a floral kaleidoscope.

Image by Brad Collins

Twenty-plus years ago we began to see an influx of "gilt edge" standards on darker colors. (Think....Slovak Prince, etc.) The edges are now also on plicatas. 11-75A is an example. Complicated pedigree, but the pollen parent is a sib to Mixed Signals, thus goes back to Reckless Abandon which is a good source for the trait.

Image by Brad Collins

 We've had interesting style arms on plics before, such as very dark blue on blue to purple plicatas, but now, some different color combinations are beginning to show up.    This is 12-99D, from a complicated pedigree including Ink Pattern and Reckless Abandon as grandparents, otherwise all numbered seedlings.   With styles like these, you almost don't mind if the standards don't stay closed!

Image by Barry Blyth

Another variation in ground color patterning -- 14-34B, from ((Drama Queen x Tuscan Summer) X Vista Point):

Image by Brad Collins

A puny first-year plant which will probably never amount to much.....but love the pattern and colors! The ground color fall spot is fun, plus the wild markings. Somehow makes me think of a witch doctor's mask.

Image by by Brad Collins

08-14A, Drama Queen X Tuscan Summer. Another with colored "blot" in the falls. Actually there is also a yellow band on the fall, combining with violet to give the oxblood red marginal band.

Image by Brad Collins

A Cosmic Voyage seedling, 14-38C.   A somewhat more subdued spot, surrounded by cream rather than white ground, and obscured as well as upstaged by the dark anthocyanin patterning. An increasing number of similar ground patterns are beginning to occur, often overlooked unless you specifically search for them. In a lightly plic-marked flower the blot would be far more obvious.

Image by Barry Blyth

Beware: a pretty flower picture does not guarantee a desirable garden plant. It's like going to an auto show: we're immediately drawn to the flashiest colored, stylishly made new models, but before putting in an order for one straight off the assembly line, we need to ask a few questions, and the same applies to irises. How many miles per gallon (how many flowers per season)? Does it perform well under varying road conditions (does it prosper in the garden when stressed during differing weather situations)? What about design flaws like impaired visibility, premature air bag deployment (poor substance, weak stems)? A glamour shot of a single flower does not tell the whole story.

This is an unmarked 12-97 series seedling involving Reckless Abandon, Sorbonne, Class Ring, and unnumbered seedlings

Image by Barry Blyth

And finally, adding a touch of pumpkin:  14-35B, from  ((Barbados x 07-204P) X Cosmic Voyage):

Image by Brad Collins
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