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PCN Iris

From: BRAD COTTEN <bdcotte@attglobal.net>

As a coastal northern California  gardener I have no experience growing
pacific coast iris outside of their range , but I have seen all the
pacific coast iris species and all but one  subspecies  in the wild and
I am amazed by the variety of habitats in which they are found. It seems
the hybrids most commonly grown are derived from mainly two species Iris
douglasiana in innominata. Iris douglasiana  is a coastal species
adapted to cool summers and wet mild winters. Iris innominata is found a
bit more inland and is more heat tolerant. The most colorful forms of
iris douglasiana ( probably the ones used in the original hybridizing )
grow  by the ocean in areas that receive almost no summer heat and very
little to no frost. It's no wonder these iris don't do well in areas of
extreme  summer heat. Some of the other species  that have not been used
in the hybrids tolerate  some extremes in temperature that it seems
could  make the hybrids more adaptable . I have seen iris hartwegii
growing where it is covered each winter with deep banks of snow at over
seven thousand feet elevation. Iris bracteata in the Siskiyu mountains
in oregon is also covered in snow during the winter. Iris purdyi ( a
very beautiful species) grows in places in northern california where
temperatures reach as high as 110 F - 43 C  . Iris macrosiphon also
grows in full sun in some blazing hot areas. As for the ability to
tolerate summer water I know of places where Iris douglasiana grows in
stream beds that are wet year round  and in standing water during the
winter and spring. All of the pacific coast iris hybridize freely and I
have long thought that by introducing other species into the hybrids
these iris could be made more adaptable  for general garden use. These
iris are very easily grown from seed  and by growing seedlings in areas
less favorable  more adaptable varieties could be discovered ( survival
of the fittest ). I would love to see someone in a more challenging
climate  try introducing different species into the hybrids or even
starting from scratch  to develop more adaptable hybrids .
Brad Cotten
Daly City , California

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