We know it is spring when the many colorful hybrids of the native Pacific Coast Iris start to come into bloom. This lush plant forms a steadily expanding clump, appreciating supplemental water – indeed, our best collection of them reside around our recirculating bird bath with once a week watering on a slope. The photo to the right shows where two of clumps of the traditional purple variety have merged with the white Iris ‘Canyon Snow’. Defying the conventional wisdom that hummingbirds only like red flowers, we see hummers visit the ‘Canyon Snow’ selection, occasionally sitting on its wide petals as it drinks.
They typically reach about a foot in height, are happy in sun or light shade, but need a bit of additional water to keep up appearances. They are easy from seed or may be divided; move them during the late fall as they start their new growth cycle.
Sometimes known as Iris douglasiana, the Douglas or Coast Iris has hybridized freely, with many amazing color combinations being introduced into the trade by Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden and others. Below are three selections: Iris ‘Silver Moon’, Iris ‘Gold Purple’, and Iris ‘Little Toby’. You'll find these selections – and many more – at the RSABG Spring Sale, where you can usually see a sample of the blooms. (Nonetheless, the best time to plant native Irises is in the fall when they start their new growth cycle; we've lost some that we've planted in the spring.)