Tuesday, April 17, 2007

PCNs - a picture is worth...

If Irises are the rainbow flowers, then PCN (Pacific Coast Native) hybrids are the technicolor dreams of what the other Iris can only aspire. Advancing beyond all the rest, the layered combinations of colors often bleed and ooze into traceries of veins. Many have bold central blotches and splotches of contrasting colors, surpassing the ocellated eyes of peacock feathers. Their only rivals for that kind of patterning and coloration comes from some of the South African Moraeas and California Calochortus, but those are bulbs.

PCNs are not perfect and have their faults. They are not attractive without their flowers; calling them "rough" is being kind. The leaves often have brown edges and tips, looking haggard and beat up and without distinction. They require better than average drainage and part shade, being at home on slopes beneath the edges of trees. They have unproven hardiness here but I would still like to experiment with them, discovering for myself if it's possible they will survive and thrive. I would begin with straight species and close hybrids, seeking clones from high elevations or of proven cold tolerance. It is a challenge to grow them, no question, but it is one I would gladly accept.

I realized after I wrote my other post about PCNs that I was too excited discovering a new hybridizer and didn't adequately explain why I think they are at the pinnacle of all Iris breeding. I could go on and on, trying to describe them adequately and failing, piling on the adjectives but running out of them too soon. So instead of listening to me dishing up more blather, see for yourself.

This first section of plants are all winners of the Mitchell Award, given by the American Iris Society in recognition of the year's best new introduction of PCN. The award is named in honor of Sidney B. Mitchell, first president of the California Horticultural Society.

The next section is a sampling of work from top hybridizers.

'Clarice Richards' by Richards

'Menodocino Blue' by Canning

'Light Winds' by Ghio

'Lines That Rhyme' by Ghio

'Ocean Blue' by Ghio

'Pinole Princess' by Wood

'Pretty Boy' by Ghio

'Sunol Grade' by Ghio

The plants in this last section were all grown and photographed by Monterey Bay Nursery, a wholesale grower and major supplier of extensive lines of perennials, vines, exotic shrubs, and tender potted plants to Northern Californians. We used to live within four miles of them and sometimes "sneaked" in to purchase plants and look around. These pictures don't do the plants justice and it was always funny that many of them had color descriptors for names.

'Canyon Snow'
An outstanding plant known for its floriferousness, growth, and vigor.
This widely planted older variety is used as a standard against newer hybrids.


'Pink and Yellow'

'Plum and Yellow'

'Red Improved'

'San Andreas'

'Silver Circle'

'Upper Echelon'

'White and Purple'

Tomorrow: Wrapping it up

1 Comment:

lisa said...

Wow-what an assortment! I never realized there were so many beautiful cultivars...renews my interest in irises. Thanks!