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Re: CULT: SPEC: Why do some stay green

  • Subject: Re: CULT: SPEC: Why do some stay green
  • From: Linda Mann <lmann@volfirst.net>
  • Date: Mon, 10 Dec 2001 10:22:59 -0500

This was a subject I was very interested in back in the early days of
this discussion forum.  Lots of posts on the subject way back (we talked
about deciduous foliage, dormant iris, etc, but searching for variegata
& pallida would probably turn up most of the threads).

In my experience, irises that drop their foliage both during drought and
during winter seem to be the most likely to endure forever here,
especially if they aren't competing with heavy weed cover.  Winter here
(at least before we got into this current global warming cycle)
routinely exposes plants to soil and air temperatures well below
freezing (lows usually drop below zero F at least once each winter) for
weeks (highs in the low 20s) and we rarely have snow cover.  After all
the discussions, I was curious to see how the different species that
supposedly have these growth habits that were passed along would
actually do here, so I bought/begged starts of as many species as I
could as well as some of the early important tetraploid cultivars.

I also did a lot of pedigree chasing for those few cultivars that seemed
to do really well here & that were inclined to drop their foliage during
drought (keep in mind that this gravelly soil dries out fast - much
faster than 'normal' garden soil).

I found that in addition to pallida or variegata in their pedigrees,
they all had a dab of supposed reichenbachii and/or aphylla ancestry.

Pallida is one of the most commonly grown irises in this area & I had
plenty of it (and some seedlings).  It drops its foliage in the winter
here.  All of the seedlings do also.  However, it does not drop foliage
in the summer.

I purchased two strains of I. variegata - BEARDSLEY & <can't think of it
at the moment>.  These drop foliage in the winter & get very ratty in
summer drought, but don't die back completely.

Ian Efford sent me several starts of two seedlings of supposed
reichenbachii (SIGNA seed).  One clone died, the other has grown like
nothing else in my garden.  It drops foliage in the winter (later than
the others, I think... will have to start taking better notes), but does
not drop foliage in drought and stays looking pretty happy.

I bought 3 (?) clones of aphylla, all of which hate it here.  They don't
have a robust enough root system to handle the droughts and drop their
leaves at the least hint of unpleasantness <g>.  I gave away the last
struggling bits of all but one of these I think.

In addition to all this, I tried moving some of the summer deciduous
tetraploid TBs into a less stressful garden spot (less gravel, more
shade) & found that they stayed green and continued to grow during the
late summer.

There is another species that I did not encounter during pedigree
searchs - drat - time out while I go find my garden book.  I will
continue this in another post.

Anyway, the bottom line is that many of our modern tetraploid cultivars
have all of these species in their backgrounds.  I am not aware of
anything written about heredity of the characteristics of losing foliage
in response to drought or exposure to cold.

One other note, while I was digging around about all this, questioning
all 'accepted wisdom', Ben Hager wrote an article for the AIS Bulletin
in which he questioned the 'accepted wisdom' that the so-called
Mediterranean species imparted tenderness that was lethal in more
difficult climates and specifically mentioned..<drat, another senior
moment>.. well, folks, time out for some background research.  Stay

Linda Mann east Tennessee USA zone 7/8

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