Monday, September 9, 2019

Stalwart Pacifica Iris for the Garden

Kathleen Sayce, September 6, 2019

Returning to a topic of perennial interest among PCI growers, the following discusses those durable, enduring species selections and putative hybrids that often grow for decades in gardens, surviving neglect, weather vagaries and thriving year after year. These are notable for their endurance in many gardens along the West Coast. With climate vagaries on the rise, these may persist while more recent hybrids vanish.  As you will see, PCI 'Canyon Snow' is a major contributor to durability. 

Debby Cole and Bob Sussman shared names and photos of recent hybrids that show good vigor. Several photos were downloaded from the AIS Iris Encyclopedia.

Photo by John Weiler, AIS Iris Encyclopedia

PCI ‘Canyon Orchid’ ('Canyon Snow' x (I. douglasiana sdlg. x Abell I. munzii sdlg.)) X Lenz purple I. munzii sdlg., 1985 Dolores Denney

Photo by Kathleen Sayce

PCI ‘Canyon Snow’, (I. douglasiana x unknown), 1975. Dara Emory, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden:  this tough PCI survived weeks out of soil when a local gardener passed plants to me two weeks after digging up the clump. This hybrid also contributes to several more PCI known to endure garden conditions well. 

Photo by Kathleen Sayce

PCI Cape Sebastian, an I douglasiana selection, not registered, from Siskiyou Rare Plant Nursery:  For every passion there is a trigger event, and seeing this PCI in flower in my garden for the first time was that trigger for Pacifica Iris. 

Photo by Kathleen Sayce
PCI ‘Clarice Richards’, (Stambach red sdlg. X McCaskill 72-60), 1983, Richard Richards: Richard developed several very tough PCI, selecting for plants tolerant of hot dry growing conditions at elevation, east of the Los Angeles basin in southern California. It may be that tough under hot/dry conditions is also tough under cold/wet conditions in the Pacific Northwest. 

Photo by Kathleen Sayce

PCI ‘Harland Hand’ 1989, D. Lennette:  Has thrived in my garden for more than a decade. 

Photo source lost, someone please remind me!

PCI ‘Native Warrior’, 1970 Phillips:  If you are looking for red genes, this might be a PCI to use.

Hybrids from Joseph Ghio, Bay View Gardens, Santa Cruz, California have endured for several decades along the West Coast. Many of his hybrids tend to flower too early to set seed reliably in the Pacific Northwest, but these three are sturdy and return year after year. 

Photo by Kathleen Sayce

PCI ‘Big Money’, 1982 Ghio: the only aspect of growing frilly yellows that I do not like is the petals melt in the rain. Otherwise, if late April-early May is dry, PCI 'Big Money' is gorgeous.

Photo by Richard Richards, from AIS Iris Encyclopedia

PCI ‘Los Gatos’, 1974 Ghio

Photo by Kathleen Sayce

PCI ‘Mission Santa Cruz’, 1982 Ghio:  One of my very first PCI, and still outstanding each spring in the garden. Also a great source of genes for future hybrids. I'd like to do wide species crosses with this as one parent, with Siberian group species.  

From Debbie Cole, Mercer Island, Washington, west of the Cascades and just east of Puget Sound; Puget Sound gets half the rain of the ocean coast, with colder winters and drier summers. 

Photo by Debby Cole

PCI ‘Brevette’, 2018:  new from Debby Cole, this hybrid is showing signs of good durability, though it's a very recent registration. 

Photo by Debbie Cole

PCI ‘Egocentric’, 2007: this PCI shimmers with pink in the garden on a gray day. For those who live in cloudy areas, it's marvelous at brightening up the garden.
Photo by Mike Unser, from AIS Iris Encyclopedia

PCI 'Periwinkle Persian', 2004, D. Cole, also shimmers, but in a cool and calming way. 

From Bob Sussman, Matilija Nursery, southern California, come three tough PCI that cope with soCal’s mineral heavy water and long, hot dry summers. As with Richard Richards' hybrids, these seem to do well in the Pacific Northwest. 

Photo by Bob Sussman

PCI 'Canyon Banner' (‘Canyon Snow' x 'Valley Banner’), 2019:  Parent PCI 'Valley Banner' is also a durable garden iris, though more difficult to find these days than during the late 20th century. 

Photo by Bob Sussman

PCI 'Chocolate Parfait' (’Pacific Rim' x 'Garden Delight’), 2019

Photo by Bob Sussman

PCI 'Dr. Richie' -('Canyon Snow' x I. douglasiana x Cio-red seedling), 2019

Looking for vigorous PCI genes for hybridizing?

Iris douglasiana seedlings of garden heritage tend to be more durable than other PCI hybrids. Flowers are species-like in color and form, foliage varies from low to tall, and from light green to very dark green. Some selections have outstanding dark evergreen foliage. 

Two of my oldest PCI are I. douglasiana ex garden plants, one is an outstanding pass-along plant from an elderly friend who had gotten her starter clump from another gardener, and grew it for decades before giving a clump to me. The second is a low growing selection with lavender flowers. A few years ago, I received another selection, from coastal SW Oregon, with outstanding dark green foliage and lavender flowers; this plant is worth growing for the foliage alone. 

Several PCI species may persist in gardens longer than hybrids, if base soil is acidic and well drained. Some of my Iris tenax plants are more than fifteen years old, and thrive on a slope in afternoon sun each summer, and flower every year. On the other hand, Iris innominata from seed has dwindled and no longer flowers; I may have to move my plants to sunnier locations. 

Iris munzii, I. hartwegii, and other Californian species of limited natural range may be too fussy to grow in ‘strange’ soils. I moved I. hartwegii australis (seed grown, from a private garden) from sandy soil to a planter two years ago; while the plant has thrived, it has yet to flower. An I. douglasiana X I. chrysophylla hybrid thrives for me, but again, it is probably the I. douglasiana genes doing the thriving. 

Enjoy the flowers. Study the geography of their gardens of origin. This may help you find a PCI that thrives, and endures, in your garden for decades to come. 

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