Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Iris x norrisii

Commonly known as the candy lily, Iris x norrisii is a hybrid between two species that once belonged to separate genera. One parent, Iris chinensis (formerly Belamcanda chinensis), is commonly called blackberry lily for the resemblance of the shiny black seeds to ripe blackberries. The other parent, Iris dichotoma, used to be called Pardanthopsis dichotoma.
Iris chinensis 'Gone with the Wind', a tall, yellow-flowered selection of blackberry lily that grows 4-5 feet tall.
Despite the nomenclatural nightmare, these perennials are extremely tough and easy to grow. I've seen them growing in berms of fluffy, loose loam and in sandy soils in North Carolina. In my own garden in western Washington, they thrive in compacted clay with little to no water in summer, and some of them get quite soggy in winter. I like the fans of sword-shaped leaves and wish they were evergreen. Unfortunately, slugs are rather fond of them, too. Other than that, they are pretty care-free.

An Iris x norrisii in shades of orange. This one is only 2-3 feet tall and has a lot of flowers for the foliage compared to some.
I've had the above two plants blooming in my garden for several years now. I have four more Iris x norrisii that I grew from seed collected from a purple-flowered plant. Last year the first two bloomed and I was very happy that they turned out very much like the parent, purple sepals with lighter petals covered in dark purple spots. The petals were a little cupped, but I hoped they'd flatten out as the plants matured. This year, all four of those seedlings bloomed. There's still some cupping, but many of the flowers are opening flat, without defects.

The darkest seedling, with subtle spotting. I forget if it was this one or the next one that flowered last year.
 This is still only the first or second bloom for these plants, so they aren't especially showy except on close inspection, but the foliage is nice and compact and the stems are sturdy.
This seedling has wider petals with a lighter area in the center, making the spots show up more.

It will be very exciting to share these seeds with friends this year! And of course keep a few for myself to see what new colors arise.

I do remember this one flowering last year. You can see some of the cupping a the tips of the petals on these flowers, but it's much improved from last year. This seedling has an even more marked color contrast.
The first three are all lovely and worth keeping in their own right, but I think we have a winner:

Not only the petals, but the sepals have an area of yellow with contrasting purple markings. It's hard to tell from the photos because my hand is at varying distances from the flowers (and is only there because it was so windy I had to hold the blooms still to photograph!), but this is the largest flower of the four plants. This is its first time blooming and it looks great for a first time bloom. It will probably be even better next year!

8 comments:

  1. I do like the purple ones best, either with the lighter center or without. Did you start the seeds in the greenhouse first?

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    1. No, I grew these before the greenhouse was built. I forget if I started them inside under lights or if it was in pots outside.

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  2. I had 'Hello Yellow' back when it was called Belamcanda. The thing I liked best about it was the zig zag form of the stems. Do these have that feature? Alas, mine was edged out by more aggressive neighbors.

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    1. You mean the leafy part, or the flower stalks? They do have a zig-zag herring bone pattern to the leaves.

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  3. The purple-flowered variety is choice! I admire these plants every time I see them on-line (by whichever name they're presented) but I can't recall ever seeing them offered for sale here, which is curious as I'd expect our climate to be suitable.

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    1. They are pretty tough. I'd imagine they'd do well for you with only a little supplemental irrigation.

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  4. So interesting! I only have Iris chinensis/Iris domestica, which has some pest issues here but reseeds well.

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    1. My biggest pest issue with these is slugs chewing up the foliage in spring. What pest problems do you encounter?

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